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Comcast buys NBC, but what will the feds say?

Comcast and GE on Thursday finally sealed the deal they've been talking about for months, with Comcast Comcast obtaining NBC Universal for $13.75 billion. That leaves America's largest cable company in control of NBC, Telemundo, USA, Bravo, Syfy, the Weather Channel and about two dozen other cable channels.

The deal still has to clear several regulatory hurdles, and so-called consumer advocates -- who always seem to be fighting the last war -- will no doubt fight a scorched-earth campaign to keep it from happening. If Comcast owns all these cable networks, the reasoning will go, it can charge more to cable subscribers while jerking rival companies around.

That argument completely misses the point of Comcast's pursuit of NBC, which is that cable is a dying industry. There are a zillion ways for networks to get their programming to you these days that don't involve cable, including cellphones, satellites and -- most ominously for the cable companies -- broadband. Broadband is eventually going to threaten not only cable but broadcast television stations themselves. Why should NBC (or any other network) pay its balky and often troublesome affiliates to be middlemen when it can pipe the programming directly to you?

Comcast wants to get into the content business because it sees the end of the cable business looming on the horizon. It will be interesting -- and, no doubt, depressing -- to see if the government will get in the way of a far-sighted company's prudent attempt to deal with technological upheavals in its industry.

Comments

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Scott McNulty

Scott McNulty, chief blogger at Comcast here. I just wanted to say that we love the cable business. We'll continue to have a very strong cable subscription service which will still be the largest part of our company, and think this deal will make our cable assets even stronger in the long-term.

Check out this letter called "Public Interest Commitments Regarding NBC Universal" from David Cohen that we posted on our blog:

http://blog.comcast.com/nbcucommitment/

Plus you can read Brian Roberts', our CEO, post on our blog for some more info:

http://blog.comcast.com/2009/12/comcast-and-ge-announce-nbc-universal-joint-venture.html

ET

Hopefully, if the deal goes through, Comcast will not continue to nickle and dime its customers and increase their rates even higher. I prefer cable to satellite service that is less reliable in Florida's weather where there's always heavy winds or thunderstorms that interrupt service for long periods of time.

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