Sure, we've known about it for a while now, but it's finally official. Comcast and General Electric have signed a deal that makes Comcast the majority shareholder in NBC Universal.
According to the press release that came out of the new partnership this morning, Comcast now owns fifty-one percent of NBC Universal. The other forty-nine percent which is now fully owned by General Electric, rather than by GE and Vivendi, will be managed by Comcast.
This is all pending approval from a variety of government boards of course, including the Justice Department, the FCC, and the Federal Trade Commission. There's also a bit of funding that needs to move around and some closing conditions that need to be met before the deal is final. Comcast says that most of this is simply routine, and no issues are expected.
Response to the news has been mixed, with consumer advocacy groups being especially concerned. A cable company as large as Comcast owning a broadcaster as large as NBC Universal raises some red flags.
The question being raised most commonly is that of exclusive content. Comcast now has the broadcasting rights to shows and movies created by NBC Universal of course, but also the rights to The Olympics and other sporting events. It's entirely possible that Comcast could restrict other cable companies from having access to programming.
Hulu is a concern common among viewers, but Comcast says there's no need to worry. As Comcast CEO Brian Roberts put it “We love Hulu and have no intent to crush it like a bug”. It's a strange way to reassure fans of the net based television service. He also has stated that there is currently no plan to institute any kind of premium, paid content on the site.
Comcast's famously stringent bandwidth caps also have people worried. Were Comcast to restrict access or lower bandwidth to competitor's sites, or simply deny them content, it could create an uneven playing field.