The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department have voted to approve Comcast‘s merger with NBC Universal, giving the cable and ISP giant majority ownership of NBC and its media properties, including a piece of Hulu.
By a 4-1 vote, the FCC approved Comcast’s deal with General Electric, the current majority owner of NBC Universal. The Justice Department issued a similar statement declaring that the merger did not violate U.S. antitrust laws.
Under the deal, Comcast will acquire 51% of NBC Universal from General Electric Co. for approximately $13.75 billion. The deal, which has been in the works for over a year, should close before the end of the month.
The regulatory approval came with conditions, though. The majority of the conditions are designed to assure that the new Comcast-NBC entity doesn’t try to hamper the growth of online video.
“Under the proposed settlement and the FCC order, the joint venture must make available to online video distributors (OVDs) the same package of broadcast and cable channels that it sells to traditional video programming distributors,” the Justice Department declared. “In addition, the joint venture must offer an OVD broadcast, cable and film content that is similar to, or better than, the content the distributor receives from any of the joint venture’s programming peers.”
In total, Comcast accepted nine conditions directed by the FCC which will remain in effect for seven years. They include ensuring access to Comcast-NBC programming, protecting the development of online competition, guaranteeing access to Comcast’s programming distribution, protecting content diversity, increasing broadband deployment in low income households, promoting localism, expanding Spanish-language programming, increasing children’s programming and safeguarding educational and governmental programming.
Among the conditions is an agreement by Comcast to follow the FCC’s Open Internet principles, even if a court nullifies the new net neutrality rules the FCC has been crafting.
There are a lot more details available in the FCC’s announcement, but it essentially boils down to the FCC erecting multiple safeguards to protect online video and to prevent Comcast from hoarding its content from others in an attempt to become a monopoly. Still, the new Comcast-NBC entity will have full or partial control of SyFy, G4, E! Entertainment Television, Versus, USA Network, Telemundo, NBC News and NBC. Combine that with its Xfinity operation and its stake in Hulu, and you come up with one of the world’s largest media conglomerates.
While not as shocking as Comcast’s $54 billion attempt to take over Walt Disney Co. in 2004, the new Comcast-NBC entity will be a force to be reckoned with. What happens next is anybody’s guess.