Comcast and NBC venture approved with bevvy of conditions
Federal regulators on Tuesday blessed Comcast's $30 billion acquisition of NBC Universal, imposing a slew of conditions on everything from competition with rivals to the price of Internet service for poor families out of concern that the firm's vast sweep could harm consumers.
The deal marries the nation's biggest cable and Internet service provider with NBC Universal's library of entertainment - which includes "30 Rock" and Bravo's "Top Chef" - and marks the first time a cable company has owned a major network.
Comcast promised that customers of competing cable providers will continue to get access to NBC shows and that Comcast subscribers will not be shut off from other networks.
For the first time, the government waded into the realm of online video, imposing conditions to ensure that Comcast provide some Internet versions of NBC shows and movies to Web services such as YouTube, Hulu and Apple TV.
The Justice Department, which approved the deal Tuesday along with the Federal Communications Commission, said that the venture would have been rejected in its original form but that the conditions give the government the power to ensure competition in the marketplace.
"The settlement we are announcing today ensures that the transaction will not chill the nascent competition posed by online competitors - competitors that have the potential to reshape the marketplace by offering innovative online services," said Christine Varney, head of antitrust at Justice.
Government approval removes the last obstacle to Comcast's remarkable rise from its humble roots as a family-owned Philadelphia cable company into a global media powerhouse. The new venture will be called NBC Universal, and the deal is expected to be closed by the end of the month, Comcast said.
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| January 19, 2011; 6:55 AM ET
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