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Regulators consider online implications of Comcast/NBC deal

updated 10:20 pm EST, Wed December 15, 2010

Boyout expected to have impact on wider industry

Regulators are reportedly considering the deeper implications of Comcast's proposed buyout of NBC Universal. Although any conditions placed on the deal may only have an immediate effect on Comcast and NBC, such terms are expected to serve as a potential basis for new regulations that could be applied to the entire industry, according to an Associated Press report.

Regulators are said to be in the process of drafting conditions that will prohibit Comcast from blocking NBC content from making its way to the Internet, or inflating prices for web-based access. If approved, the deal would give Comcast direct control over major movie studio Universal Studios, along with television content from NBC, Telemundo, CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen.

NBC and Comcast deny suggests that a buyout would stand in the way of content availability through web-based services, however the latter company has been actively working to limit online access to customers who also pay for cable subscriptions. Analysts expect that many cable providers and networks are attempting to prevent customers from "cord cutting," dropping their cable service in favor of cheaper or a la carte options available online.

One of the potential regulations would force Comcast to provide NBC content to competing online distributors without charging unreasonable prices. Other potential terms could prevent the company from requiring a cable subscription to access NBC Universal's shows and movies through Internet sources. Comcast may also be required to divest NBC's 32-percent stake in Hulu, which is co-owned with ABC and Fox.

The FCC and Justice Department are expected to approve the deal as early as this week, pending completion of successful negotiations between the companies and regulators.

by MacNN Staff



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