NBC's Embarrassing Gold Mine

For all the talk about NBC Universal's flagship network or about its urbane Bravo cable network, it turns out the entertainment company makes its real money on the channel with professional wrestling and re-runs.

Yes, good ole USA Network is busy paying the bills while NBC honcho Ben Silverman naked arm wrestles with people and Lauren Zalaznick at Bravo obsesses over hipsters in Bushwick.

"USA is the single biggest asset that we currently have at this company," an NBC Universal cable exec told the Associated Press.

The network had more viewers than any other cable network in history in the the first quarter. USA and SciFi (soon to be "SyFy") Channel alone threw off $1 billion in profit last year, or about a third of the take for the entire company, which has upwards of eight networks and a studio production operation, among other assets, but which makes two thirds of its TV money off cable channels.

USA "really hit the jackpot," AP writes, on re-runs of shows like House and NCIS. Then there's the booming pro wrestling segment and original USA cop shows like Monk and In Plain Sight.

It's great that the advertising depression is bringing USA good press, because as soon as the easy money returns it's getting sent back to the nerd table with SyFy and the Weather Channel faster than you can say "Walker, Texas Ranger."