Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NBC Affiliates May Be OK With Comcast Merger

Comcast is rounding up supporters of its merger plan and agreeing to conditions to get them to voice their approval to the FCC and DOJ. The latest are the NBC affiliates, whose business could be seriously affected by a merger of content and distribution. And what seems to be the biggest condition, that live sporting events like the Olympics, Super Bowl and others are kept on free TV and not moved to cable. "The affiliates argued in a joint submission to the Federal Communications Commission that Comcast could woo new customers by putting popular sports events on channels that require monthly fees. Comcast already serves 23.8 million customers as the nation's largest cable TV provider."

Really? Sporting events. That will keep your business alive post merger. Seriously, more sports are seen on cable then broadcast today. That is not going to save your business. How about the freedom of offering your program across multiple distribution platforms NOT owned by Comcast. Telco, wireless, IP, etc. How about a financial commitment to original programming production. NBC has shown that when you reduce your programming budget, your ratings suffer. The NBC affiliates need guarantees that they will get more original programming than the cable nets. Prove to them that the broadcast platform remains their most important business. Live sports remaining on broadcast is fine; but it is not the only condition that needs to be met to support this merger.

Other programmers, like Bloomberg and Wealth TV, are lining up on the other side of the merger fight. They argue that it would create an unlevel playing field for content creators and other distributor platforms, "saying the combined entity could discriminate against competing cable channels and have too much power in negotiations with organized labor."

In the meantime, much will be said to prove that the deal will be fair to all. Only post merger will the truth eventually unfold.

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