NBC-Universal-Comcast Merger: What We Do and Don't Know
Are there any nightmare scenarios for competing cable providers?
One concern may be that other cable providers are now buying the rights to carry NBC content from a competitor, which could mean higher prices that would inevitably get passed on to you. However, it should be noted that Comcast serves 23.8 million cable customers, but there are over 65 million cable-enabled households in the U.S., according to 2006 numbers from metrics firm SNL Kagan. So the new content company's interests may diverge from Comcast Cable's needs.
However, the Associated Press is reporting that NBC shows that now cost money to access through Comcast's fledgling online on-demand service called TV Everywhere, will be free to Comcast customers for the first three years following the closing of Thursday's business deal. Comcast was also clear that it would not allow its business interests to influence NBC News, according to the AP.
What about net neutrality?
Comcast has adopted a wait-and-see position to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's intent to develop net neutrality regulations. But it's notable that Comcast has been disciplined by the FCC for anti-neutrality practices in the past. The stakes for net neutrality are even higher now that Comcast has an interest in content production and a high-speed Internet provider business serving 15.7 million customers.
Without net neutrality regulations, will Comcast Internet customers be able to access NBC.com content faster than CBS.com or Disney-owned ESPN.com? This may also be a case where the interests of 'Comcast the content creator' diverge from 'Comcast the Internet provider.' But it's something worth keeping an eye on.
What about Comcast's TV Everywhere?
According to the AP, Comcast intends to give its on-demand customers free access to NBC content that now costs money, but will Universal movies come to Comcast Internet or cable customers sooner than non-Comcast customers? Again, it's hard to say, because each Comcast business unit would have diverging interests. Clearly Comcast Cable would benefit from having these premium movies available to its consumers first, but such a limited audience wouldn't necessarily be in the interest of NBC Universal.
What does this mean for advertising?
I think it's a pretty safe bet that Comcast will leverage its properties to become an advertising juggernaut. With all those content companies, and dwindling advertising revenues across many traditional channels, this deal could radically change the value of advertising on Comcast's wide-ranging properties.
What about Hulu?
Comcast has its own on-demand Internet video streaming service called TV Everywhere that is a competing service to Hulu, but for the moment NBC content will remain on Hulu as it always has, according to PaidContent.