Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Comcast wins government approval to take over NBC

WASHINGTON — The government on Tuesday cleared the way for Comcast, the country's largest cable company, to take over NBC Universal in a deal certain to transform the entertainment industry landscape.

Comcast is buying a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric for $13.8 billion in cash and assets.

The Justice Department and five state attorneys general said Tuesday they reached a court settlement allowing the companies to proceed with their combination, subject to conditions intended to preserve competition among video providers.

In addition, the five-member Federal Communications Commission voted 4-1 to approve the transaction, subject to similar but broader conditions.

Among other things, the government is requiring Comcast to make NBC programming available to competitors such as satellite and phone companies, as well as new Internet video services that could pose a threat to the company's core cable business. Officials want to guarantee online video services from companies such as Netflix, Amazon.com and Apple can get the movies and TV shows they need to grow — and potentially offer a cheaper alternative to monthly cable subscriptions. The government's conditions will help ensure that the transaction cannot "chill the nascent competition posed by online competitors," said Christine Varney, head of Justice's antritrust division.

Still, the conditions did not go far enough for Michael Copps, one of the three Democrats on the FCC and a vocal critic of media consolidation. Copps voted against the deal, warning that it "confers too much power in one company's hands."

Several public interest groups and a few members of Congress also decried the combination. "This will ultimately mean higher cable and Internet bills, fewer independent voices in the media, and less freedom of choice for all American consumers," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.

Philadelphia-based Comcast, which hatched the merger in the spring of 2009, has about 23 million cable TV subscribers and nearly 17 million Internet subscribers. It also owns a handful of cable channels, including E! Entertainment and the Golf Channel, and has a controlling interest in the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers sports teams. Comcast's SportsNet Philadelphia channel carries Flyers, Phillies and 76ers games.

Taking over NBC will transform the company into a media powerhouse. NBC Universal owns the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks; 26 local TV stations; popular cable channels including CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen; the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks; and a roughly 30 percent stake in Hulu.com, which distributes NBC and other broadcast programming online.

Most of the government conditions outlined Tuesday will remain in effect for seven years.

One key goal of federal regulators is to ensure that satellite companies, rival cable operators and other existing pay-TV providers can still get access to marquee NBC programming at reasonable prices once the deal closes. The FCC approval establishes an arbitration process to resolve disputes between Comcast and competitors that want to buy programming. It also prohibits Comcast from withholding programming during negotiations — a practice that broadcasters have been using recently to extract higher fees from cable companies.

Comcast wins government approval to take over NBC 01/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight

    Military

    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102