NBC Universal Buys International Cable Networks

Acquires 152 Hallmark Channels, KidsCo and Diva TV

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC Universal's cable portfolio just got fatter. The company agreed to acquire U.K.-based Sparrowhawk Holdings today, an acquisition that includes 152 international (non-U.S.) Hallmark Channels; U.K. based movie network Movies 24; global children's network KidsCo; and Diva TV, an entertainment and lifestyle network scheduled to launch in the U.K. on Oct. 1, along with Diva +1. Hallmark +1 will launch in the U.K. in early 2008 as well.
NBC Universal President-CEO Jeff Zucker: 'It is another step, among several we will take in the next year, to transform our entire portfolio.'
NBC Universal President-CEO Jeff Zucker: 'It is another step, among several we will take in the next year, to transform our entire portfolio.' Credit: AP

With this latest batch of cable properties under its belt, NBC Universal has an ever-more-robust suite of cable properties that stacks up against the likes of Time Warner, Discovery, News Corp. and Viacom in terms of households and international presence. Domestically, NBC Universal owns 11 networks: NBC, MSNBC, SciFi, Bravo, USA, Universal HD, CNBC, Telemundo, Mun2, Chiller and Sleuth. Viacom is still the champ, with 17 networks in its domestic portfolio. But today's acquisition means NBC's global presence is more on par with Discovery's 12 domestic brands and the 180 countries in which those networks air.

Commitment to international growth
Jeff Zucker, president-CEO of NBC Universal, said in a statement: "This is a perfect strategic investment for NBC Universal and illustrates our commitment to growing our company internationally. It is another step, among several we will take in the next year, to transform our entire portfolio, with an eye toward high-growth areas. Our combined assets will now allow us to build leading global brands and create scale in the international marketplace. The Hallmark Channels' geographic breadth is of particular importance to us, as it will bolster our position in existing markets and boost our growth in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe."

The additional steps to which Mr. Zucker referred could mean NBC Universal's rumored acquisition of women's cabler Oxygen, which is in 73 million homes. Now that it has international rights to Hallmark Channel, a domestic acquisition would seem the next logical step for the network, which is independently owned by Crown Media Holdings.
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