NBC Universal to Build Newsroom in O’Brien’s Former Studio

NBC Universal will build a new West Coast newsroom and production center in Conan O’Brien’s former studio on the Universal lot, the entertainment company said Thursday.

The 60,000-square-foot facility will move the Los Angeles bureau of NBC News and local affiliate KNBC from Burbank to Universal City. The company didn’t disclose how much the new studios will cost, but such facilities typically require tens of millions of dollars to build.

“This is a significant investment in our West Coast news operations,” NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker said. “It also further consolidates the locations of our businesses, making the Universal lot the center of our operations on the West Coast.”

The facility, which will have the latest broadcasting technology, is expected to be completed by 2012.

The news teams have some urgency to move. NBC Universal sold NBC’s historic Burbank lot in 2007 and 2008 to Burbank developer M. David Paul & Associates. Plans at the time called for news operations to move by 2011 into a studio and office complex to be built across Lankershim Boulevard from Universal Studios.

The proposed complex, called MetroStudio@Lanskershim, hasn’t been approved by public officials. NBC Universal previously agreed, however, to be the anchor tenant in the proposed 650,000-square-foot project headed by Los Angeles developer Jim Thomas on land owned by the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

That arrangement apparently is still on, but the NBC news operations needed a new home because the MetroStudio development probably won’t be completed until early 2014.

“We remain interested in being a key component of the MetroStudio project,” NBC Universal spokeswoman Cindy Gardner said.

Work will begin soon on retrofitting Studio One and an adjacent five-story office building on Universal’s lot. The company spent more than $50 million to prepare the studio where O’Brien hosted the Tonight Show from May 2009 until NBC pulled the plug on him in January 2010.

Converting the facility to a news operation will require erecting a steel frame inside the building to create a second floor capable of holding heavy broadcasting equipment. The sound stage was built in 1962 for entertainer Jack Benny.

“This move represents an extraordinary investment in KNBC and NBC News L.A.,” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News.

LA Times

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