By David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
Today we are living in a Golden Age of entertainment. There have never been more shows, networks, websites, and other outlets creating and distributing original programming and competing for viewers. And with more demand for talent and work to go around, there’s never been a better time to be an actor, director, writer, producer, or any of the countless other jobs that are part of the creative community.
At Comcast, we’re proud to play a role in entertainment’s creative renaissance. While many people still think of us as a provider of the boxes and wires that bring you television, broadband, and phone, as the parent company of NBCUniversal, entertainment is a big and growing part of our business – delivering exceptional and diverse content, as well as thrilling and immersive theme park attractions, is a core part of our mission.
Our programming, ranging from sports to sci-fi, news, comedy, and Spanish-language shows, reaches hundreds of millions of American adults on a monthly basis. Behind the scenes are 32,000 NBCUniversal employees, 10,000 of whom go to work at Universal Studios in Los Angeles every day. A few thousand more work at one of the businesses headquartered in the area.
We believe passionately in supporting the people who create great entertainment, which is why we’ve doubled down on investments in production and tourism, including investing in facilities in California and New York, increasing local programming, and new attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood. Our proposed transaction with Time Warner Cable will allow us to increase our impact, distributing more content, including more diverse and independent content, for consumers.
Consider the positive impact we’ve already had since acquiring NBCUniversal in 2011. In Los Angeles, we’re in the midst of investing over $1 billion in our West Coast businesses and our 25-year plan is expected to create more than 30,000 jobs and generate some $1.9 billion every year for the local economy, reinforcing our role as a major economic engine in the region. In New York, we have invested $197 million in entertainment capital expenditures, including technical upgrades to studio space supporting productions from 30 Rockefeller Plaza. On average, 400 people were hired to work on each of the two recent live musical productions, The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, filmed in 2013 and 2014 in New York.
And at our theme parks in Los Angeles and Orlando we are investing in exciting new attractions that include special effects and videos. For example, as part of its milestone 50th anniversary celebration, Universal Studios Hollywood has begun to debut a slate of dynamic new attractions which will culminate in the much anticipated Los Angeles debut of the “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2016. The addition of this immersive themed land will change the face of the more than $16 billion tourism industry in Los Angeles. At Universal Orlando, the introduction of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2010 drove a 30 percent attendance increase the first year after opening. Also accompanying these exciting new features, which will add jobs and drive increased attendance, are additional investments in infrastructure and roadway improvements in Los Angeles.
One of the most important ways Comcast supports the creative community is by investing in the infrastructure that allows them to do their best work. Universal Studios is a major hub for the entire industry and is home to not only Universal Studios, but also more than 20 other production companies. Last year, 121 TV shows, feature films, commercials, and still shoots were shot on our Universal Studios Lot. Our post-production facilities worked on 90 television shows, 12 first-run feature films, and 166 trailers and TV spots. Some of the content shot and posted on the lot is produced by third parties. In New York, we’re investing nearly $2 billion in buying and improving entertainment and news facilities – supporting thousands of jobs.
The popular networks of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment – which include USA, Bravo, Syfy, E!, Oxygen, Esquire, and Sprout – will air more than 140 original series in 2015. More than 30 outside production companies are producing original series slated to air across our Cable Entertainment portfolio throughout the year. And the NBC network obtains a majority of its original primetime programming from third party studios.
NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment consists of two studios, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. Its 2015 slate features 16 current series at USA, Syfy, Bravo, Hulu, and Awesomeness TV, plus three new pilots in production and in active series pick-up consideration. Universal Cable Productions produces hundreds of hours of original scripted programming and has a total of 21 writers’ rooms in Los Angeles.
Telemundo is the largest producer of Spanish language prime time television programming in the nation and the largest exporter of Spanish language programming from the United States. This year, in the U.S., Telemundo will produce approximately 8,000 hours of original programming alone.
In addition, Universal Television is one of the largest and most successful television production companies in America. The studio currently produces more than 20 primetime series as well as late night and reality programs for a variety of network, cable, and digital platforms. Acclaimed series produced by Universal Television include Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, Law & Order: SVU, Parenthood, Bates Motel, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, among numerous others, and all of NBC's successful late night programs.
Our commitment to supporting great content extends to local programming, especially to local news. Compared to the year before we acquired NBCUniversal, during 2014 NBC-owned stations collectively aired 2,810 more hours and the Telemundo-owned stations aired 4,620 more hours of local news.
We’ve invested in the NBC-owned stations by adding 130 new employees across all 10 stations, including reporters, producers, and photographers; and through the purchase of new sets, equipment, and vehicles. That commitment to investment extends to the Telemundo-owned stations as well, with 160 new employees across all 17 stations, including reporters, producers, and photographers, to support news and programming expansions; new local half-hour news programs in 14 markets; plus more than 35 hours per week of new local newscasts in several markets. Last year, we opened a $100 million state-of-the-art broadcast center on the Universal lot housing the Los Angeles bureaus of NBC News and Telemundo as well as our two local stations, KNBC and KVEA.
We know that producing exceptional content means supporting diverse talent. That’s why we recruit and train diverse voices on camera and behind the scenes through a number of initiatives, including the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival, Writers on the Verge, StandUp NBC, Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellowship, and the Diverse Staff Writer Initiative. NBC Entertainment also recently partnered with the acclaimed sketch comedy group The Second City to find and foster the best talent from every background.
We strongly believe that NBCUniversal is a place that attracts the best talent and that includes partnering with outside production companies such as Mark Burnett Productions to bring hits like The Voice and A.D. The Bible Continues to viewers and Illuminations Entertainment, the creators of the highly successful “Minions” franchise. Universal Pictures has more than 25 production deals at the studio, which include partnerships with Judd Apatow, Jason Blum, Will Packer, Imagine Entertainment, Working Title, Legendary, and de Passe Jones Entertainment among others.
We believe everyone should be able to enjoy this golden era of entertainment, no matter where they live. If approved, Comcast’s partnership with TWC would give millions of Americans access to the most robust video on demand platform in the world with more than 55,000 choices, more than double what is currently available to TWC customers. We have partnered with independent film providers, such as IFC, Sundance, Tribeca Film, Phase 4, and SnagFilms, to feature and launch independent films on demand, some the same day as theaters. Last year, we showcased approximately 2,700 independent films on demand. And with the Xfinity TV Go app, customers have access to 80 live TV channels and more than 22,000 on demand choices out of the home. Time-shifted viewing and full current season banking on demand has become instrumental in the success of new shows.
As the volume of high-quality programming continues to grow, we are always looking for innovative ways to work with programmers to feature content on platforms like Xfinity On Demand and across multiple screens, as audiences look for reliable and predictable platforms to seamlessly discover, sample, catch-up and stay current on the hottest movies and shows. We are committed to bringing the future of TV to even more consumers and partnering with content creators to make it even more convenient for customers to discover the next hit show once the TWC transaction closes.
We are a major distributor of independent content on cable television. Comcast carries over 160 independent networks, including many small, diverse, and international ones, and six of every seven networks carried by Comcast are unaffiliated with the company. Since 2011, Comcast has added 20 independent networks (including four independent networks with African American or Hispanic American ownership – ASPiRE, BabyFirst Americas, REVOLT, and El Rey) and has substantially expanded carriage of over 141 independent networks by an astonishing 217 million subscribers.
And we continue to invest. Last year alone our cable division spent nearly $10 billion on programming expenses. A unified Comcast-TWC provides an enormous opportunity for increased investment in quality programming and will allow independent networks to grow and reach millions of households they wouldn’t otherwise.
While Comcast’s business has grown and changed over the years, our mission remains the same – to expand access to the best content available. Teaming up with TWC will let us do just that, expanding the reach of the creative community and allowing more viewers to enjoy the golden age of entertainment.