The NBC Universal-Comcast deal has gotten approval from the Department of Justice, after getting the nod from the Federal Communications Commission.
With both agencies approving the deal, it has become official. Like the FCC, the Justice Department says the deal is contingent on the parties' agreement to license programming to Comcast's online competitors, subject themselves to anti-retaliation provisions and adhere to Open Internet requirements.
The Antitrust Division worked in close cooperation and unprecedented coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reach a result that fully protects competition, allowing businesses to bring new and innovative products to the marketplace, providing consumers with more programming choices, said Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, in a statement.
The deal will allow General Electric to transfer the rights to NBC Universal's broadcast, satellite, and other radio licenses to Comcast, the nation's largest cable company. On its website, Comcast says the venture will bring together the cable network portfolio with 234 NBC-affiliated stations, 10 owned and operated stations, various Telemundo Network properties, a movie production studio and theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood among other things.
Earlier today the FCC approved the deal by a four-to-one vote.
After a thorough review, we have adopted strong and fair merger conditions to ensure this transaction serves the public interest, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.
The conditions include carefully considered steps to ensure that competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace. Our approval is also structured to spur broadband adoption among underserved communities; to increase broadband access to schools and libraries; and to increase news coverage, children's television, and Spanish-language programming.
Like the Justice Department, the FCC said the Comcast-NBCU joint venture will have to ensure fair competition in the video marketplace.
Critics say it gives too much power into one company, Comcast, and would allow them to monopolize content and pricing.
The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real, said FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, in a statement. Copps was the lone dissenting vote.
FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Cyburn, who worked on the deal, said she got several commitments from Comcast, including agreeing to anti-retaliation language. Up until now, online video distributors have lived in fear of having Comcast refuse to carry their programming if they offered it online. But now, if a content provider licenses its programming to an online video distributor, like Netflix, it will be protected from retaliatory discrimination, she said.
Other agreements Comcast made were to ensure reasonable access to Comcast-NBCU programming for multichannel distribution, access to Comcast's distribution systems and protecting localist concerns.
The two companies, Comcast and NBCUniversal, could not be reached for immediate comment.