Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Info Needed on Comcast NBC Merger

Comcast and NBC are hoping that before the end of the year, the FCC will approve the merger of these two media powerhouses. It seems, however, that the FCC is not in the same rush. "The Federal Communications Commission is requesting additional information from Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal as it reviews the cable operator's plan to acquire a controlling stake in the media company." Can all the information received so far, plus this new information, be analyzed before the end of the year so that the FCC can make a decision? And doesn't the Department of Justice have a voice in the approval process, too. I wonder if a decision could possibly be reached before the start of the new year.

As to the question, should NBC and Comcast be allowed to merge, many see negative consequences to such a move. "The combination has raised worries among satellite companies, rival cable operators and other subscription video providers that Comcast would use its control of NBC Universal to push up prices for must-have programming or even withhold it altogether." I too wonder the overall impact to competition and to content received outside the cable pipeline.

It seems NBC is closing those deals now, before the potential merger. New deals with Netflix and others enable NBC Universal programming to be viewed without a cable subscription. Should NBC and Comcast merge, could those future deals be denied by management. Does this merger do too much to hurt competition? And should their be a delineation between distribution and content? Time Warner separated its programming arm from Time Warner Cable. CBS/Viacom got out of the cable platform more than a decade ago and ABC has no ownership either. The Comcast NBC merger would be a first. And the FCC and DOJ have a lot to consider.