Top stories of 2009: Comcast-NBC and the new era of content control

What do you get when you combine Comcast's effort to acquire NBC with the broader industry project TV Everywhere and recent incidents in which fair access to cable TV content for cable competitors has been questioned? You get one of the biggest stories of the year.

One of the biggest stories just in the last few months was Comcast's apparent desire to acquire NBC Universal in some fashion. The deal finally did happen, in the form of a joint venture that will marry Comcast's existing content with NBC Universal's vast programming stores.

That deal is still playing out, however. It has raised concerns about one company controlling too much TV content, and still may need to overcome regulatory hurdles. The implications of a TV Everywhere-style offering--that you would view TV content only via a traditional pay TV service or a site controlled by a pay TV operator--also have raised concerns about consumer captivity. The effort comes not long after free TV and video sites finally made a competitive impression on broadcasters.

Comcast-NBC and TV Everywhere also were not announced in an atmosphere free of controversy about fair access to content. Telcos like Verizon Communications have begun to toughen their criticism of how incumbent cable operators make some of their content available to other providers. A new era of content control began in 2009, and the industry and regulators will be sorting out the new rules to the game for some time to come.

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Comcast and NBC Universal announced their deal this month
Some see Comcast-NBC as improving the cable industry's lot
The DoJ said it would review cable TV programming practices
Verizon complained about Cablevision content access
Online TV has increasingly threatened pay TV status quo

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