October 5, 2010

FCC Looking Into Comcast, NBC Deal

Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal are being probed for additional information from the Federal Communications Commission about the cable operator's plan to acquire a controlling stake in the media company, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

The FCC sent letters to Comcast and NBC Universal on Monday that asked about both companies' businesses.  Regulators are seeking details about Comcast's distribution agreements for several popular cable channels that it already owns, including E! Entertainment, Versus, regional sports networks and the Golf Channel.

The FCC also wants details about Comcast's current channel lineups and about the thinking behind Comcast's decisions on which programming to carry.

The FCC is probing NBC Universal for details about existing agreements with a number of cable, satellite and phone companies to carry popular NBC Universal channels like Oxygen and local NBC and Telemundo stations.

Comcast is seeking FCC and Justice Department approval to acquire a 51 percent interest in NBC Universal from General Electric Co.  The deal would give the nation's largest cable operator control of NBC and Spanish-language Telemundo broadcast networks.

Satellite companies and rival cable operators say that Comcast would use its control of NBC Universal to push up prices for must-have programming or even withhold it altogether.

Independent programmers fear that Comcast would drop competing channels from its cable lineup or relegate them to premium tiers with fewer subscribers.

Regulators are also studying how the deal could affect the emerging online video market.  Public interest groups are worried that Comcast could try to stifle the market's growth by withholding programming from the Internet and forcing consumers to subscribe to cable in order to watch content online.


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