No, it doesn't have anything to do with the rumored Comcast buyout: NBC Universal is rebranding its international television portfolio -- consolidating nine units into five -- to strengthen global recognition and increase revenue.
The rebrand comes as the company announces that it will fall short of its ambitious plan to double revenue, from $2.5 to $5 billion, by 2010.
The five new niche units will be organized under the umbrella of the Universal Networks Int'l brand (formerly NBC U Global Networks): Universal Channel, for general entertainment; 13th Street Universal, for crime and suspense; SyFy Universal, the former Sci-Fi Channel; Diva Universal, featuring female-focused entertainment; and Studio Universal, hosting made-for-television and big-screen films from Universal Pictures. The new channels will reach 130 countries and over 150 million households by the end of 2010.
Global considerations determined the use of the Universal brand, as Roma Khanna, the president of NBCU Networks and Digital Initiatives, told the Financial Times: "NBC is a fantastic brand in North America, but it is not so well known globally... We went for Universal because it is a very familiar brand and much-loved. Frankly, it is universal.”
NBCU blames global economic conditions and a weak dollar, not marketing, for the company's failure to meet revenue targets on time. The consolidated rebrand will help boost future revenue, in what Khanna admits is a "fragmented entertainment world, [where] brand is everything.”
NBCU recognizes that consumers view brands across a shrinking global marketplace. Their new strategy leverages their best assets to compete globally. In July, the company rebranded the Sci-fi Channel as the SyFy Channel, not only to "own the word" in Google searches, but to capture global cultural ubiquity. American fans were turned off by the rebranding, but it was needed so viewers in Japan and France could identify the product with sci-fi; in those countries science fiction is referred to as "SF."
Regardless of NBC's own fate, Universal Networks should thrive as stand-alone brand. If purchased by Comcast, NBC Universal and Universal Networks would benefit exponentially from their new stable of digital properties.