Comcast plans to put its brand on Manhattan

Comcast's request goes before a New York panel Tuesday.
Comcast's request goes before a New York panel Tuesday. (ADAM ROUNTREE / Keystone)
Posted: June 14, 2014

Comcast Corp. is seeking to put its name in lights on top of one of the world's most famous and visible properties - 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown Manhattan.

A borough advisory board overwhelmingly approved on Thursday night the cable-TV giant's plan to remove the lighted General Electric signs atop the 70-story 30 Rock and replace them with the Comcast logo, including the NBC peacock, on the building's south and north sides, providing viewership uptown and downtown.

A lighted NBC peacock would go on 30 Rock's west side, facing the Hudson River and the miles-long stretch of high-rise condo and apartment buildings that have sprouted on the New Jersey banks of the river.

There would be no high-level lighting on the building's east side.

The proposal goes before a city preservation commission on Tuesday for a final vote. If approved, it would be the first time that the iconic NBC image would grace the top of the Depression-era art deco building that is home to NBC's Saturday Night Live studio and TV network. The peacocks would not be Technicolor, but white silhouettes. NBCUniversal spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard declined to comment on the lighting proposal before Tuesday's vote.

Carol Krinsky, a New York University art professor and "dedicated lover of Rockefeller Center," said Friday she believed that Comcast was showing off.

"This is a sign and it will go the next time somebody else rents a lot of space," said Krinsky, author of Rockefeller Center. She considered it a "harmless change" to the complex and said she would be more concerned if the company changed the building itself.

Many longtime New Yorkers don't think of 30 Rock as the GE building because for decades it was known as the RCA building, reflecting the building's first anchor tenant.

General Electric bought RCA in the mid-1980s and changed the signage - as Comcast, which acquired a majority control of NBCUniversal from General Electric in 2011, wants to do now.

Comcast has embarked on a $190 million floor-by-floor modernization of 30 Rock since acquiring the news and entertainment conglomerate.

"Generally speaking, we did not have a problem with it," Wally Rubin, district manager for Manhattan Community Board Five, said Friday of Comcast's lighting proposal. "It's not going to be any more intrusive than it's ever been."

In addition, Rubin said, there was a precedent for new corporate owners to change 30 Rock lighting.

Community Board Five is something of a city hall for the Midtown Manhattan business district that includes Times Square. The community board approved Comcast's proposal in a nonbinding, 26-3 vote. Observers assume it will be passed on Tuesday by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, though they note there is a new commission head.

Comcast's proposal could have additional advertising benefits. Comcast doesn't currently serve New York with cable and Internet services. But if federal and state regulators approve Comcast's proposed $45.2 billion deal for Time Warner Cable Inc., Comcast will become a major TV and Internet provider there.

It wouldn't hurt to have what amounts to the city's tallest billboard with the Comcast name on it.


bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897

@bobfernandez1

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