Tomorrow morning, on Feb. 3, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker will begin testifying before Congress about their big merger.
They will testify before the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology & the Internet in the morning and the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights in the afternoon.
David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president in public policy, writes on the company’s blog about what members of Congress have been asking them about during the past week. We can expect to hear about all of these issues tomorrow:
NBC News. “Because of our strong belief in the importance of broadcast news, on the day we announced this transaction, we pledged to enhance local news and other forms of local programming and to preserve the journalistic independence of NBC News. Expanding on those commitments in our Public Interest Statement last week, we promised to increase local news production by a total of 1,000 hours at the NBC owned and operated stations. We want to preserve the quality, and improve the quantity, of news and public affairs programming around the country – and we’re prepared to invest to do that.”
“There was a lot of speculation that we’d turn NBC and Telemundo into cable-only networks. We’ve pledged not to do that (specifically stating our goal to preserve free, over-the-air broadcast television). We want to preserve the local broadcast affiliate model and work with the affiliates of NBC and Telemundo to secure a viable future for the network and affiliates alike.”
Competition. “While Comcast may be the largest video provider, the next two largest providers are DirecTV and EchoStar – each of which has a nationwide footprint (we don’t) and both of which compete against us for nearly every customer we have. And Verizon and AT&T (both much larger than Comcast) are now aggressively overbuilding our cable systems all around the country. Even if competition itself wasn’t enough to protect consumers, there are specific FCC rules that require programming owned by a cable company to be shared with competitors, as well as rules that forbid any cable company from favouring programming it owns over other channels.” We’ll abide by them.
Video over Internet competition. While NBC Universal (through its 32 per cent, minority, non-controlling interest in Hulu) and Comcast (through its entertainment and video site Fancast) both participate in this market, our combined share of the market is minuscule (today, that market is dominated by Google/YouTube and populated by dozens and dozens of other sites). We don’t view Hulu and Fancast as competitive – with each other or with our cable service – rather, they are both complementary services. And in any event, we play such a small role in this market (either as a content provider or as an Internet video competitor) that it just isn’t credible to conclude that we have any capacity to get in the way of the development of video over the Internet.
“We look forward to this chance to discuss the pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and strong public interest benefits of our proposed joint venture,” Cohen wrote.
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