Comcast Shouldn't Package NBC Stations With Cable-TV Channels, Group Says

Comcast Corp. should be barred from packaging NBC stations with popular cable channels when selling programming to video providers, an industry group told regulators reviewing the company’s purchase of NBC Universal.

The Federal Communications Commission needs to restrict Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, from selling the TV stations or nine regional sports networks in a bundle with national cable channels it would own such as Bravo and USA Network, the American Cable Association said in a statement.

The FCC requirement would “prevent the media giant from harming competitors and their subscribers,” Matt Polka, president of the Pittsburgh-based organization, said in an e- mail. The group said 150 of its members are in communities served by NBC stations or Comcast sports networks.

The group is seeking to break up the channel packages media companies typically assemble, and “it’s improper to apply an industrywide issue to only one company,” Sena Fitzmaurice, a Washington-based Comcast spokeswoman, said in an interview.

The FCC set today as a deadline for comments on Comcast’s $28 billion deal to buy the General Electric Co. media unit. The Justice Department also is reviewing the merger, which was proposed in December.

Photographer: Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg

The Comcast Center building, which houses the headquarters of Comcast Corp., third from the right, stands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Close

The Comcast Center building, which houses the headquarters of Comcast Corp., third from... Read More

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Photographer: Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg

The Comcast Center building, which houses the headquarters of Comcast Corp., third from the right, stands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Comcast would gain control of NBC’s television network; NBC TV stations in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago; cable channels; the Telemundo Spanish-language network and local stations; and a library of more than 4,000 movies.

Philadelphia-based Comcast has pledged good-faith negotiations to carry NBC’s competitors on its cable systems, and promised not to shift sports events such as the Olympics and National Football League games carried by NBC to cable.

Higher Prices

Opponents say Comcast-NBC will have an incentive to raise prices and withhold programs from rivals.

“If the merger is approved, Comcast will own one in five TV viewing hours; cable bills will rise; and consumers will have fewer choices in programming,” Josh Silver, president of the advocacy group Free Press, said in a July Web posting.

Comcast fell 47 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $17.64 at 1:58 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Television, has filed papers opposing the merger as it is currently proposed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

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