Big bucks, big questions for Comcast

As Comcast reported sharply higher fourth quarter earnings, it was expected to face still more questions about its plans to spend about $37 billion to acquire a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal.

Comcast reportedly earned $955 million or 33 cents a share in the fourth quarter based on revenue of $9.06 billion, which more than doubled the 14 cents, $412 million it earned a year earlier. Last year's revenue at this same time was $8.81 billion. People paid an average of $67.45 per month to watch TV on Comcast--up two percent in a sour economy.

So Comcast can afford the NBC Universal price tag without flinching. Comcast's bigger problem is that others are flinching at the idea of the biggest cable operator getting fatter with the NBCU programming package. Colleen Abdoulah, president of competing cable operator WOW and a board member of the American Cable Association (ACA) was expected to reflect her organization's concerns when she testifies before congressional panels looking into the acquisition. The ACA has gone on record as questioning the anti-competitive potential for the deal and suggesting Comcast would wield a more powerful programming clout over smaller operators with shallower pockets. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has repeatedly said the deal would actually be good because it would encourage innovation and investment.

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