What Happens If Comcast Buys NBC?

Rumors that the Philadelphia cable giant is in talks with NBC generate speculation about what a merger could mean

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Philadelphia's Comcast corporation is the nation's largest cable company and, according to one survey, the second most-hated company in America. You wouldn't expect there to be much excitement around rumors that the cash-flush company is thinking about buying a big chunk of NBC, crowning itself a media powerhouse. But pundits are already hashing out the details of the deal and imagining what a merger could mean.

Is it a wise move? Some writers speculate the possible merger could ring the alarms of anti-trust watchdogs. And others wonder whether buying an ailing broadcast network (among other properties) will put an anchor around the profitable cable company's neck. Here's what pundits think could happen:

  • Hulu Gets Endangered? writes Peter Kafka at AllThingsD. "NBC is one of the founding partners at Hulu, the free Web TV portal that's caused consternation for Comcast and other cable providers, which worry that the site is undermining the value of the TV programming they spend big money on. And Comcast and Time Warner have been trying out a 'TV Everywhere' strategy that is, in part, a reaction to Hulu's initial success"
  • Legal Hell Ahead, writes Verne Gray at Newsday. "a sale would also test the Obama Justice Department rather significantly. I believe - though will check further - that a major cable operator can own TV stations, BUT that the FCC has in place a so-called horizontal cap that limits how many viewers the operator can reach in an individual market. I don't know how that'd work across the country, but if this deal were to ever happen, Comcast would instantly be a major player in the city that never sleeps, not to mention tri-state area, where Time Warner and Cablevision have long divided most of the spoils.
  • Better Pay-for-View, suggests Kim Masters at the Daily Beast. She says that Hollywood insiders like the deal better than the status quo. She then suggests that one payoff would be that "Consumers can look forward to seeing new movies on demand far closer to their theatrical release dates."
  • More Bad Shows from NBC, argues Jon Friedman at Marketwatch. He says the news and entertainment divisions require creative innovation that Comcast would be ill-suited to provide. "I suspect that Comcast, which tried to buy Walt Disney Co. several years ago, would be the wrong owner for NBC. The Peacock Network has to come up with hit shows."
  • More Comcast Subscribers, suggests Sam Gustin at Daily Finance. "Comcast, which has about $4 billion cash on hand, is hungry to gain control of a major media company in part because its new cable subscriber growth is slowing, but also to feed its ambitious plan to provide content 'on-demand' through its cable pipes. Comcast has nearly 25 million cable subscribers."
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