This time it will be different, say the folks at NBC Universal.
Though other large-scale media mergers have gone awry in recent years, executives from
insist that things are going smoothly at the world's newest media conglomerate.
"I think there's no apprehension," said Ron Meyer, the former president of Vivendi's U.S. entertainment subsidiary who now becomes the head of Universal's movie studio and theme parks. The merger, he said, "was not done haphazardly."
Certainly there is a lot of business to put together at NBC Universal, whose creation was formally announced at a Wednesday press conference. GE, which owns 80% of the new company, contributed its NBC television network and other television properties, from the Spanish language Telemundo network, 29 owned-and-operated TV stations, CNBC and Bravo.
Vivendi -- which will end up with 20% of the new company, a stake it can start selling off in 2006 -- contributed the Universal studio, movie library and theme parks, as well as the USA Network, the Sci-Fi Channel and a TV production company.
Executives offered anecdotal evidence for their optimism, but skeptics have the force of recent history.
The most obvious example of what can go wrong is at Vivendi Universal, which nearly collapsed after former CEO Jean-Marie Messier raced to collect media assets, some of which are being off-loaded into the new NBC Universal.
, which, amid such issues as corporate infighting and suspect revenue-recognition policies, never lived up to its billing as the perfect marriage of old and new media.
On Wednesday, executives said that NBC Universal would work because of the planning that went into the deal --
an early agreement was announced last September -- and because of a pre-existing cooperative culture at NBC.
Randy Falco, an NBC veteran who is now president of the NBC Universal Television Networks Group, told reporters that different groups at NBC were already working with each other. That, he said, is the "fundamental difference" between this company and others. Cooperation among different operations is the GE way as well, executives suggested.
USA and Sci-Fi are being brought into NBC's advertising sales organization. And, in another apparent sign of postmerger productivity, NBC Universal is planning to load up USA Network with Athens Olympics programming that NBC is televising this summer. "It is our absolute goal to make USA the cable home of the Olympics," said Dick Ebersol, now chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics.
NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright -- who is also vice chairman of GE -- indicated he thought it would be easy for the new company to achieve the $500 million in annual merger synergies that executives had previously promised. To achieve $300 million in cost savings (on top of $200 million in additional revenue), the company will likely consolidate real estate holdings, improve purchasing and eliminate perhaps 500, or 3%, of NBC Universal's 15,000 jobs over "a couple of years."