Comcast, NBCU get support of House Dem

U.S. Rep Rick Bouche asks FCC, DOJ to OK deal by Dec. 1

NEW YORK -- Comcast and NBC Universal on Monday won the support of a key Democrat in the House of Representatives for their planned combination -- with some conditions attached.

U.S. Representative Rick Boucher, the chairman of the House subcommittee on communications, technology and the Internet, sent letters to the FCC and the Department of Justice asking them to approve the proposed deal by Dec. 1.

But in a statement, he emphasized that he recommended that "they give special consideration to ensuring that consumers receive no less content after the merger than is available to them today."

In the FCC letter, Boucher expressed "some concerns about the potential for consumer harm," particularly when it comes to the continued broad availability of video content -- whether consumers subscribe to the various services provided by the combined company or not.

The House Democrat's conditions:

  1. Programs that are delivered over the air by NBC and later made available for free at should "not be permitted to migrate exclusively to TV Everywhere or exclusively to any other online program platform or platforms."

  2. Content that the company has an attributable interest in shouldn't be allowed to become part of exclusive contracts that restrict its availability to TV Everywhere or any other online platform.

  3. Comcast should also not be allowed to enter exclusive agreements on unaffiliated content available on TV Everywhere or other online platforms. 

  4. If Comcast acquires "high value sporting events" from the likes of the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, NCAA or PGA that used to be available over-the-air, the firm shouldn't be allowed to keep such content exclusively to its pay cable networks or otherwise "effectively deprive the public of free access."

  5. In response to a past issue that saw users of Boxee technology rendered unable to access content on online video site Hulu, in which NBC Uni has a stake, Boucher said the combined company "should not prevent any Internet-enabled device from displaying any online programming service in which the combined company has an attributable interest or an agreement," unless it compromises functionality, appearance or intellectual property rights.

Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente estimated that CBS will earn approximately 50 cents per subscriber per month in retrans fees from Comcast starting in 2012, "which should help CBS to meet or exceed its previously stated target of $250 million in total retransmission fees from all distributors for fiscal year 2012."

Assuming more than 12 million CBS owned-and-operated stations subscribers within the Comcast footprint, this would imply roughly $75 million in payments from Comcast to CBS in 2012, he calculated.

DiClemente also believes the deal includes "healthy escalators, which would step up pricing in later years such that CBS will receive well more than $1 per sub by the end of the time horizon."