Comcast to take NBC control | Shanghai Daily

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December 4, 2009

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Comcast to take NBC control

COMCAST Corp plans to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal for US$13.75 billion, it said yesterday, giving the nation's largest cable TV operator control of the Peacock network, an array of cable channels and a major movie studio.

Although the deal could mean that movies could reach cable more quickly after showing in theaters, and that TV shows could appear faster on cell phones and other devices, it was already raising concerns that Comcast would wield too much power over entertainment.

Indeed, if the deal clears regulatory and other hurdles, Comcast would rival the heft of The Walt Disney Co - which Comcast CEO Brian Roberts already tried to buy.

Comcast, which already serves a quarter of all households in the United States that pay for TV, would gain control of the NBC broadcast network, the Spanish-language Telemundo and about two dozen cable channels, including USA, Syfy and The Weather Channel. It also would get regional sports networks, Universal Pictures and theme parks.

In agreeing to buy 51 percent of NBC Universal from General Electric Co, which has controlled NBC since 1986, Comcast hopes to succeed in marrying distribution and content in a way Time Warner Inc could not. AOL and Time Warner are undoing their ill-fated marriage next Wednesday.

Comcast's Roberts and GE CEO Jeff Immelt have been discussing the deal for months, and the final weeks came down to GE's persuading French conglomerate Vivendi SA to first sell its minority stake.

Comcast made the deal because it is eager to diversify its holdings. It faces encroaching threats from online video and more aggressive competition from satellite and phone companies offering subscription TV services.

But consumer advocates worry that people could end up paying more for TV.

Under Comcast, subscription-TV operators would be negotiating with a direct rival on how much they have to pay to carry NBC's cable and broadcast channels.

For entertainment viewers, the deal means Universal Pictures movies could get to cable more quickly.




 

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