(From “The Global Media Giants,” by Robert W. McChesney, Extra!, November/December 1997)
$5 billion – 1996 sales
General Electric is one of the leading electronics and manufacturing firms in the world with nearly $80 billion in sales in 1996. Its operations have become increasingly global, with non-U.S. revenues increasing from 20 percent of the total in 1985 to 38 percent in 1995, and an expected 50 percent in 2000. Although NBC currently constitutes only a small portion of GE‘s total activity, after years of rapid growth it is considered to be the core of GE‘s strategy for long-term global growth.
NBC owns U.S. television and radio networks and 11 television stations. It has been aggressive in expanding into cable, where it now owns several cable channels outright, like CNBC, as well as shares in some 20 other channels, including the A&E network. The most dramatic expression of GE‘s media-centered strategy is its 1996 alliance and joint investment with Microsoft to produce the cable news channel MSNBC, along with a complementary on-line service. From this initial $500 million investment, NBC and Microsoft plan to expand MSNBC quickly into a global news channel, followed perhaps by a global entertainment and sports channel. NBC and Microsoft are also developing a series of TV channels in Europe aimed at computer users.