Comcast’s legal win raises questions for education


Among other things, they’re requiring Comcast to make NBC programming available to competitors, including rival cable companies, satellite operators, and new internet video services that could pose a threat to Comcast’s core cable business.

Regulators want to ensure that emerging online video platforms being developed by companies such as Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc. can get the movies and TV shows they need to grow—and potentially offer a cheaper alternative to monthly cable subscriptions.

Philadelphia-based Comcast has about 23 million cable TV subscribers and nearly 17 million internet subscribers.

It also owns a handful of cable channels, including E! Entertainment and the Golf Channel, and has a controlling interest in the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers sports teams. Comcast’s SportsNet Philadelphia channel carries Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers games.

Taking over NBC will transform the company into a media powerhouse.

NBC Universal owns the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks; 26 local TV stations; popular cable channels including CNBC, Bravo, and Oxygen; the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks; and a roughly 30-percent stake in Hulu.com, which distributes NBC and other broadcast programming online.

The regulatory approvals establish an arbitration process to resolve disputes between Comcast and competitors who want to buy programming.

They prohibit Comcast from withholding programming during negotiations—a practice that broadcasters have been using recently to extract higher fees from cable companies.

A handful of other conditions are designed to ensure that Comcast cannot stifle the growth of the fledgling internet video market by starving the new industry for content.

One requires the company to offer its programming to legitimate internet video providers on the same terms and conditions that it offers other pay-TV providers.

Another requires the company to make comparable programming available at comparable prices to an internet video provider that has reached an agreement to buy programming from another media company.

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