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As entertainment reporters try to make sense of NBC's surprise decision to swap Conan O'Brien for Jay Leno, some journalists are pointing to NBC's looming merger with Comcast. The country's largest cable provider secured purchase of NBC Universal in December and now seeks final approval from regulators. Though NBC Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin said the Comcast deal has nothing to do with the decision, pundits say Gaspin has "every incentive to show improvement" before his new bosses at Comcast takeover. This is their argument:

  • Comcast Deal Is the Elephant in the Room, writes Chuck Ross at TV Week: "The reason NBC all of a sudden fears another 'PR nightmare' right now is because they are indeed worried about the political fallout it could have on the Comcast deal. Clearly one of the jobs of a top executive at NBCU today is to ensure that the Comcast deal gets done, since management of NBCU and parent General Electric have said they believe that the consummation of the deal is in the best interests of the company."
  • Affiliates Were Going Nuclear, writes Kim Masters at The Daily Beast: "The affiliates were not only threatening to pre-empt the Leno show at 10, but to go even more nuclear by opposing the pending Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal." James Poniewozik at Time says the affiliates had to act now: "since they are about to get bought by a cable operator, it may be the most leverage they ever have again."
  • The Market Reaction Matters Andy Fixmer and Ronald Grover at Bloomberg note Comcast's recent decline: "Philadelphia-based Comcast, the largest cable operator, lost 5 cents to $16.92 on the Nasdaq Stock Market Jan. 8 and has climbed 3.6 percent in 12 months. GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, rose 35 cents to $16.60 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Jan. 8 and has climbed 3.8 percent in the past year."

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