Add the American Cable Association to the long list of entities that want regulators to take a hard look at the proposed $30 billion deal to create a NBC Universal joint venture between Comcast and General Electric.
There is concern among some about Comcast working both sides of the table as the nation’s largest cable operator and, with the addition of the controlling interest in NCBU, becoming one of the media entities.
"Without broad government intervention, regulators in Washington, D.C., will see Comcast-NBCU wield its unprecedented power to drive up artificially the cost of its programming, particularly for its newly acquired local broadcast TV stations and its 'must-have' national and regional cable networks that air live sporting events. Without restrictions, the new media conglomerate will also leverage its enhanced market power to force other pay-television providers to distribute all of its combined Comcast-NBCU programming on basic tiers, regardless of consumer interest in paying for this content," said ACA President and CEO Matt Polka.
Under the proposed transaction, Comcast would take majority control of the NBC broadcast network, 10 local NBC TV stations and 16 TV stations owned by the Spanish-language Telemundo network, and the Universal movie studio. The deal would also put Comcast in command of NBCU's popular cable programming assets, including USA, Syfy, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Weather Channel, Oxygen, Chiller, Sleuth, Telemundo, Universal HD, and mun2.
These NBCU cable programming assets would be combined with Comcast's stable of cable networks, which includes Golf Channel, E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, and VERSUS.
The ACA said the “consolidation of programming assets by the nation's largest pay television and broadband provider represents a serious threat to the financial stability of smaller operators.”
After the JV was announced yesterday, some analysts said it could take a year to 18 months for the deal to pass regulatory muster. The FCC will scrutinize the deal to see whether it benefits the public while the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission could step in if they feel it could impede competition in the marketplace.
According to various media reports yesterday, Michael J. Copps, a Democratic member of the FCC, said the joint venture faces a "very steep climb with me” while Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, have called for hearings.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts voiced his belief that the regulators would approve of the merger.
"This is pro-consumer and is going to accelerate what I believe consumers want, which is to access all different types of content on different platforms at different times," Roberts said in a conference call, according to a story in The Washington Post.
|More Broadband Direct 12/04/09:|
|• ACA wants regulatory scrutiny of Comcast-NBCU |
|• Comcast, NBC deal will face tough antitrust review |
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|• Broadband Briefs for 12/04/09 |