Ed Burns Speaks out in Favor of the Comcast-NBC Universal Merger

The filmmaker says it will be 'good for independent filmmakers,' while a senator from Oregon raises concerns.

NEW YORK - With the FCC and Justice Department in their final stages of their regulatory reviews of Comcast's proposed acquisition of 51 percent in NBC Universal, Ed Burns has spoken out in favor of the deal, while Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has joined those raising concerns.

While critics have warned that independent programmers could be hurt by concentrating content and distribution power in Comcast’s hands, filmmaker and actor Burns (She's the One) suggested the deal would be good news for his fellow filmmakers.

“It will be good for independent filmmakers, because it will drive new distribution opportunities for our work,” Burns said in a letter to the FCC this week. "I've seen in Comcast a real commitment to independent film," he added, citing his experience during the process to get his new movie Nice Guy Johnny onto the largest U.S. cable operator's on-demand lineup.

The film reached 46 million homes through a combination of Comcast’s on-demand service, iTunes and other digital distributors, according to Burns. “Without spending a cent on advertising, we came in eighth on iTunes’ rental catalog, which was better than many studio films and their deep-pocketed marketing departments,” he wrote. “We’re hoping this is the wave of the future as this new technology allows us to reach an even wider audience than before.”

Merkley, meanwhile, joined the chorus of those concerned about Comcast’s potential market dominance. He raised questions about increased pricing power, which could lead to higher cable prices in rural areas, mentioned concerns about the future availability of Portland Trailblazers games and expressed worries about potential preferential treatment of Comcast’s own content via its broadband connections.

“There are potential benefits to customers, but also potential costs,” Merkley concluded. “Thus, please provide thorough and fair consideration of these concerns.”