Comcast Now NBC Universal's Majority Shareholder 
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Written by Dick Ward   
Thursday, 03 December 2009

The much expected deal between Comcast and General Electric has finally been announced as official.  Cable provider Comcast will be buying fifty-one percent of shares in NBC Universal, while GE will – after picking up all shares owned by Vivendi – own forty-nine percent of the company. While GE will own nearly half of NBC Universal, all management will be done by Comcast. While GE and Comcast are singing the praises of the new arrangement, others are less than excited.

Consumer advocacy groups like the Consumer Federation of America feel that this venture leaves too much power in Comcast's hands.  After all, Comcast is a cable provider that now owns a sizable movie studio and broadcasting company.

The question that will be in front of regulatory groups such as the FTC, FCC and Justice Department is whether or not this merger could create an unfair environment for competitors.  Not only does Comcast now control NBC's television assets and Universal's films, but the rights to certain sporting events, including the Olympics.  Comcast could potentially limit access to the events by competing cable and satellite companies.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has stated that one thing that will not be changing, at least immediately, is the Hulu online television service.  When asked about a Hulu premium or paid service, he stated that “that's certainly not in the cards.”  He also stated that Comcast has no plans to shut down the service with the strange reassurance that “We love Hulu and have no intent to crush it like a bug.”

The deal, announced this morning, is dependent on a few customary closing conditions as well as review by both US and international regulatory agencies.  Roberts says that no problems are to be expected, and that Comcast is making commitments to assure that the consumer interest is well represented.

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