Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC News unit is headquartered in New York City, but NBC News has apparently not suspended any of its operations in the city despite the coronavirus raging through the Big Apple. This mistake could be detrimental to Comcast stock.
By shutting down NBC’s Manhattan headquarters and no longer broadcasting any live news shows from New York City, Comcast would greatly improve NBC’s image, providing Comcast stock with an important, positive, long-term catalyst.
In the U.S., New York City is, by far, the area hardest hit by the coronavirus. Of the 60,000 known cases in the country as of March 25, nearly 15,000 were reported by New York City. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered all non-essential business shut down in the state, but exempted all news media from the order.
Live TV news is a pretty labor-intensive business. In addition to the on-air talent, technicians are required. Each show also usually has a director or producer, and many shows also employ associate producers and production assistants who help out with various tasks. Additionally, NBC News has multiple executives and probably employs makeup professionals as well.
As someone who has spent a great deal of time in Manhattan and briefly lived there, I know that the subway cars are small and extremely crowded during rush hour. Even with many businesses shut down in New York City, I’m sure that it’s impossible to keep more than six inches away from other people during rush hour. Many of NBC’s employees likely take the subway to work.
So by continuing to operate NBC News from Manhattan, Comcast may be contributing to the spread of coronavirus. Moreover, allowing NBC News, which has been among the most vocal advocates for taking preventative measures, to remain on the air is extremely hypocritical.
TV News Isn’t Essential
I fully agree that keeping the public informed, particularly during a national crisis, is a necessity. But there are many ways of keeping the public informed that are less labor-intensive than traditional live TV news shows.
For example, the public could be kept informed through updates on NBC’s website (including live Skype updates) and on Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR) and by broadcasts on conventional radio and on Sirius XM’s (NASDAQ:SIRI) radio stations.
Even if one believes that live TV news is necessary, multiple national TV news channels i.e. MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, along with the daily national news shows of the traditional broadcast channels, aren’t all essential. Instead, each channel could serve as the nation’s main TV news source for one day of the week. And broadcasting all of the opinions shows on cable TV each day really doesn’t seem like a necessity.
But the least NBC should do is follow in the footsteps of CBS News, which closed down its New York City headquarters. And Fox News and ABC News should certainly also shut down their TV news operations in New York.
Shutting Down NBC News Helps Comcast Stock
Shutting down NBC News’ headquarters would show the nation that NBC is really willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to combating the coronavirus. Such a display could meaningfully increase loyalty to NBC.
To the extent that Americans know NBC is owned by Comcast, the move could also increase loyalty to the cable provider. At a time when Comcast in general and NBC, in particular, will have to fight harder than ever for revenue due to cord-cutting, that loyalty could make a big difference and help Comcast stock over the long-term.
Larry Ramer has conducted research and written articles on U.S. stocks for 13 years. He has been employed by The Fly and Israel’s largest business newspaper, Globes. Larry began writing columns for InvestorPlace in 2015. Among his highly successful, contrarian picks have been GE, solar stocks, and Snap. You can reach him on StockTwits at @larryramer. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.