January 18, 2011
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today Missouri, the U.S. Department of Justice, and four other states (Texas, Washington, California, and Florida) have reached an agreement with two major telecommunications companies who last winter proposed a merger.
Koster said Comcast Corporation and General Electric Company, which owns NBC Television Network and the cable networks of NBC Universal, Inc., entered into a joint venture that would allow Comcast to control the development and distribution of all NBC and NBCU programming.
“NBC and NBCU programming is important to consumers in Missouri,” Koster said. “For example, the networks offer popular shows such as Sunday Night Football, The Office, and The Today Show; numerous cable networks, including CNBC, the leading cable financial news network; and movies and other programming for television, as well as on-line distribution. The proposed merger could have disadvantaged other cable distributors and satellite and telephone programming distributors. In addition, it could have posed a detriment to competition from Internet-based distributors.”
Koster said the DOJ and several states looked at the transaction for any likely anticompetitive effects. Today they filed a settlement agreement in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that would resolve competition concerns. In addition, the FCC has run a parallel review to analyze whether the transaction would be in the public interest. A separate FCC order has been issued that imposes additional conditions on certain practices.
Koster said the two settlements impose a number of restrictions and limitations on the merger to ensure that competing distributors have fair access to NBC and NBCU content. The settlements also address several areas of the joint venture’s operations. The DOJ and states’ settlement particularly focuses on requiring Comcast/NBC to make content available to online video distributors; requires NBC to relinquish all management rights in connection with Hulu.com, a popular video website; and prohibits Comcast from retaliating against content providers who sell to online distributors, entering into exclusive agreements that might limit access to programs, and slowing broadband signals when broadband customers view non-Comcast content.
“Our examination of this transaction concluded that without these conditions, customers may have been harmed by limited choices and higher costs,” Koster said. “This remedy ensures that the benefits of competition will be preserved for Missouri consumers.”