Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Comcast/NBC's Bad Deal: How Newspapers Lose out If Comcast Gets the OK to Buy NBC

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Comcast/NBC's Bad Deal: How Newspapers Lose out If Comcast Gets the OK to Buy NBC

Article excerpt

WHEN YOU WORK IN THE NEWS INDUSTRY, IT'S NOT HARD to find evidence of the negative impact of media consolidation. As media companies get bigger, local news and in-depth reporting take a hit. Employees get laid off. Important stories go uncovered.

Now there's a new media merger on the horizon. And if approved by the government, it will make matters worse for Americans both inside and outside the news business. Newspapers could be especially hurt if the deal goes through.

In December, cable giant Comcast announced it would buy NBC Universal. Comcast has agreed to pay roughly $30 billion for the company--but the cost to the public would be far greater.

If Comcast, the nation's largest cable and Internet access provider, takes over NBC, it would be the largest media merger in a generation. The combined company would include the NBC broadcast network (which supplies programming to NBC-affiliated stations all over the country), 10 NBC owned-and-operated TV stations, the Telemundo broadcast network, 16 owned-and-operated Spanish language TV stations, Internet properties, exclusive rights to the Olympic games, regional sports networks, television and movie studios, as well as an ownership stake in a slew of cable channels, including MSNBC, the USA Network and E!.

In short, Comcast and NBC would control a sizeable chunk of the content you watch, as well as access to the platforms you use to watch it -namely, broadcast TV, cable TV, and the Internet. Indeed, market analysts have estimated that a combined Comcast/NBC would control 1 in every 5 hours of television viewing.

The proposed merger would hit the "overlap markets" the hardest--the 10 cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco in which NBC owns local TV stations that already have Comcast cable and Internet service. If this merger goes through, one company will control access to content online, via cable and over the airwaves in these communities.

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In these markets, Comcast/NBC will become a monster advertising contender. In fact, Comcast is already the largest local advertising distributor in the cities where it plans to buy NBC broadcast stations. With this combination of local broadcast and cable advertising, Comcast could easily distort ad rates--diverting advertising revenues not just from broadcast outlets in those cities, but also from newspapers and other print media. …

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