The Big Test – Proposed Comcast and NBC Universal Merger

The proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal is a major test for the Obama administration’s positions on vertical mergers and media consolidation.  Comcast has already made some commitments to aid it during the review process, which is likely to take at least a year.  These commitments include continuing free over-the-air broadcast of NBC and Telemundo as well as enhancing availability of children’s programming and Hispanic-focused content through on demand capabilities and some use of the digital spectrum available to various channels.

The big questions left are how the Obama administration will react to the proposed merger and what conditions might be placed on the merger once its terms become more concrete.  The merger would see a significant combination of internet service provision, television programming distribution, television programming production, and news gathering into one entity.  At the very least, Comcast’s position as “one of the nation’s leading providers of cable, entertainment and communications products and services” is certain to raise a lot of questions during the review process.

An interesting effect of entering the review process is how Comcast’s need to enhance its image to aid in regulatory agency approval, and how this might affect the ability of other television networks to demand better retransmission terms from Comcast.  It is entirely possible that Comcast may have to take a softer line in its negotiations and pay more for local broadcasts than it has in the past, in order to help convince regulatory agencies that the merger will not have anticompetitive effects.

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