October 5, 2009 / 7:09 PM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX-NBC, Universal down through the 20th century

Oct 5 (Reuters) - NBC Universal was born on May 12, 2004, when NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment merged.

The entertainment conglomerate owned by General Electric Co (GE.N) and Vivendi SA (VIV.PA) comprises the fourth-rated U.S. TV network, television production and broadcasting operations, 10 TV stations, Spanish-language U.S. broadcaster Telemundo, cable channels including the USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo and Oxygen, and a stake in the Weather Channel.

It also owns Universal Studios film and DVD production and distribution operations, Focus Features and theme parks.

Now sources say General Electric is considering, among other potential deals, buying out Vivendi and selling a majority stake in the entertainment unit to top U.S. cable provider Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O). [ID:nN01269119]

The TV network with the peacock logo was the first U.S. broadcasting network and dominated the 1980s and 1990s with a string of worldwide hits. In the film arena, Universal is also a nearly century-old name and has switched hands several times.

Following is a history of the network and the movie company.

1912: Independent Moving Pictures of America merges with five other film companies to create Universal Film Manufacturing Co to produce, distribute and exhibit movies.

1915: Universal City, a state-of-the-art studio, officially opens in Los Angeles and is dedicated by General Electric founder and inventor Thomas Edison.

1926: The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) launches the National Broadcasting Co as the nation’s first permanent radio network.

1931: NBC begins experimental TV broadcasts from atop the iconic Empire State Building in New York.

1939: NBC demonstrates television at New York World’s Fair and begins regular New York TV program service.

1941: NBC granted FCC’s first commercial TV station license, for WNBT in New York.

1951: Universal is acquired by Decca Records.

1951: NBC inaugurates first regular coast-to-coast TV network service.

1953: NBC begins first compatible color broadcasts, nine years ahead of other networks. It later adopts the peacock logo.

1962: Music Corporation of America (MCA) buys Decca Records, and with it, Universal Pictures.

1964: Universal Studios Tour opens for business. MCA acquires Alfred Hitchcock’s Shamley Productions, including rights to “Psycho” and all his television work.

1964: NBC presents first made-for-television movie, “See How They Run,” produced by Universal Television.

1980: MCA Home Entertainment Group founded, creating catalog video distribution division.

1983: NBC garners 133 Emmy nominations, a record for the most in a single year, which still stands. Its programs at the time included “St Elsewhere,” “Hill Street Blues” and “Cheers.”

1986: General Electric acquires RCA for $6.4 billion and becomes NBC’s parent company.

1989: Sitcom “Seinfeld” premieres as “The Seinfeld Chronicles”. NBC launches cable business network CNBC.

1990: Universal Studios Florida theme park opens in Orlando.

1991: Electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial Co (6752.T) purchases MCA and, with it, Universal.

1993: Universal CityWalk entertainment and shopping mall opens in Los Angeles.

1993: NBC dubs Thursday nights “Must-See TV.” “Cheers” spin-off “Frasier” premieres.

1994: Thursday blockbusters “ER” and “Friends” debut.

1995: Joseph Seagram Co Ltd buys 80 percent interest in MCA.

1996: MCA Inc. is renamed Universal Studios Inc.

2000: Vivendi, French film and television studio and distributor Canal+ Group, and parent Seagram Company form strategic business combination, creating Vivendi Universal.

2001: Universal Studios Japan theme park opens to record attendance. Universal gains USA Network cable assets including USA Films, later renamed Focus Features.

2002: NBC buys U.S. Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo, cable channel Bravo, and station KNTV in San Jose/San Francisco.

2003: Universal becomes the first studio with five summer releases — including “Hulk” and “Bruce Almighty” — breaking the $100 million mark at the box office.

2003: NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment agree to merge and form new entity called NBC Universal.

May 12, 2004: NBC Universal becomes a combined company.

Source: NBC Universal website, nbcuni.com.

Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Richard Chang

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