After a year of bare-knuckle lobbying, Comcast has won FCC approval for its acquisition of NBC Universal. The deal, likely to close this month, will create a veritable media behemoth. Though the FCC's green light comes with considerable strings attached, a number of media observers are terrified about what the conglomerate might do. Here are five nightmare scenarios:
- Comcast Will Be Unstoppable, writes Joe Torres at The Huffington Post:
Comcast is already the nation's largest Cable TV and residential broadband provider, reaching 23 million cable customers and 16.7 million broadband subscribers. But once this merger is completed, Comcast will own 26 local TV stations (NBC and Telemundo); the NBC broadcast network; 17 cable networks (including MSNBC, Bravo, USA, CNBC, the Weather Channel), Universal Pictures, and the online video service Hulu. Overall, the merged company would have a financial stake in 125 media companies, including cable networks, TV stations, Web sites and other properties.
- The Open Internet Will Die "The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, tollbooths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end-users and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real," says Democrat Michael Copps, the lone FCC commissioner who opposed the merger. "It reaches into virtually every corner of our media and digital landscapes and will affect every citizen in the land. It is new media as well as old; it is news and information as well as sports and entertainment; it is distribution as well as content. And it confers too much power in one company's hands."
- May Pave the Way for More Channel Blackouts "Little is said in the FCC’s summary order about how disputes between Comcast and other media companies over payments for television content should be resolved," writes The Economist. "These disputes have become increasingly fractious in the past couple of years, with channels periodically disappearing from television sets as media firms and distributors fail to agree prices. They are likely to become downright vicious as broadcast firms like ABC and Fox push for more 'retransmission' fees from cable and satellite firms."
- Worse Programming, Higher Bills, fumes Minnesota Sen. Al Franken: "With approval of this merger, the FCC has given a single media conglomerate unprecedented control over the flow of information in America. This will ultimately mean higher cable and Internet bills, fewer independent voices in the media and less freedom of choice for all American consumers."
- It Will Start a Media Consolidation 'Arms Race,' predicts Joe Torres at The Huffington Post:
It will only be a matter of time before more companies follow suit. The FCC's blessing of Comcast and NBC will embolden companies like AT&T or Verizon to try to merger with content providers such as Disney or CBS, launching a virtual "arms race" of media consolidation where a handful of companies fight for greater control of the content you watch and all the ways you watch it.