Report: Justice Dept. dialing in on Comcast-NBCU deal

The other shoe finally has dropped in Comcast's bid to acquire NBC Universal. While the FCC has been taking a hard--and public--look at the deal's impact on the burgeoning online video industry, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice also has been combing through the details of the $13.7 billion deal for the past eight months. Its focus: Whether Comcast is part of a cable and satellite effort to box out Internet video players from getting access to television programming rights.

The agency's focus reportedly is on whether Comcast--once it acquires NBCU--will make it more difficult for Internet companies to compete. Cable companies that own content currently are required to make that content available to competitors at a "reasonable" cost.

Justice also is looking at how Comcast's TV Everywhere initiative, Xfinity, which gives customers regulated access to cable content on the web and mobile devices, could impact Internet competition.

"The success of the online-video-business model depends critically on access to online content, and strict conditions on the transaction would be necessary to thwart" any attempts by Comcast-NBCU to block access, Dish Network--which has been a voluble critic of the deal--wrote in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, detailing its support for broadening "program access" rules, according to the WSJ.

Dish and fellow satellite television provider DirecTV content the deal will be a major blow to the online video industry; Comcast, meanwhile, contends that the online industry is so nascent that it's effect won't be felt for a long time.

Comcast has faced a rising tide of opposition to its deal with General Electric to acquire NBCU, but conventional wisdom says the deal, inevitably, will be completed.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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