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Gaming Guru

Hubble Smith

Las Vegas New Market Research Target

31 October 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas has replaced Columbus, Ohio, as the best city in the United States to conduct market research, an executive for NBC said Wednesday.

"I thought it was interesting to point out to this group our focus on Las Vegas because of the diversity and breadth of the population," Robert Wright, chairman and chief executive officer of NBC, said at the annual luncheon for the Nevada Development Authority.

He said NBC spends $750,000 on market research in Las Vegas and employs 300 people through a partnership with MRC Group Research Institute.

"We discovered in Las Vegas we can do in one day things that used to take us two weeks to do in other places," Wright said. "You have such a large body of people coming and going every day, that's a great benefit."

Just as retailers use market research around the country to compare products, NBC asks opinions of its programs and concepts to find out what people like and don't like, he said.

In some ways, Wright said he thinks of himself as a big-time Las Vegas gambler, going through 300 to 400 ideas and hundreds of scripts to find six or seven pilot shows, of which one or two might succeed.

"Even though the odds here are against me, they compare favorably to what I deal with on a daily basis," he said. In the halls of the Four Seasons after the luncheon, he was approached by a man from Los Angeles with a tourism and travel show idea.

Advertisers spend more than $500 billion each year in the U.S. media, $13 billion with NBC.

Wright is also vice chairman and executive officer of General Electric Co., which recently signed an agreement to merge NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, creating a media company worth $43 billion.

Last year, GE acquired Minden-based Bently Nevada, a supplier of products and services for testing and monitoring industrial equipment, now part of GE Power Systems.

Wright said there are five points he evaluates for mergers and acquisitions:

- Always know your strategic priorities.

- Be patient and ready to move when the opportunity arises.

- Be sure to get into a business with people who have a successful track record.

- Don't go after deals that aren't fair to both parties.

- Never forget that signing an agreement is just a start; the most important work is the execution of the business plan.