NBC-Universal-Comcast Merger: What We Do and Don't Know
What about NBC?
NBC will remain a free, over-the-air television network, according to The Wall Street Journal.
What are the antitrust considerations here?
According to Ken Ferree, Senior Fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation there aren't any antitrust considerations. In a statement released shortly after the Comcast-GE deal was announced, Ferree said, "The deal raises no general antitrust or diversity issue. Comcast is primarily a distribution company, not a content company like NBCU." Ferree's statement then diverges from the subject at hand, and argues for restraining the FCC's influence on business dealings between media companies.
But it's notable that one company will have content distribution and content creation units, which could lead to the appearance of antitrust or monopolistic behavior if the company is not careful. This may be part of the reason Comcast says it will be keeping its properties in the joint venture under the CEG tent, which is separate from Comcast Cable. Will that separation between content and distribution satisfy the inevitable antitrust investigation?
Maybe, but remember that during his confirmation hearing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "Excessive consolidation is something I think that still needs to be paid attention to.” Of course, any concerns about having a content company and a distribution company under the same tent didn't stop a similar merger in 2000 between AOL and Time Warner. However, Comcast has double the number of cable subscribers that Time Warner did in 2000.
What about privacy concerns?
A company with business units that include high-speed Internet service, cable TV service, digital telephone service, premium online content destinations, a news organization, a movie studio, theme parks, a major television network, and a variety of local television stations will almost certainly come under scrutiny from privacy advocates. In fact, it may make criticisms against Google look like a parlor game.
If this venture is successful, could Comcast one day be big enough to buy Google?
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).