As Comcast's NBCUniversal deal conditions reach their end, DOJ warns it's still watching: report

U.S. Justice Department
U.S. Justice Department building. (Coolcaesar/Wikimedia)

Comcast is just about out from under the conditions placed upon its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal. But the U.S. Justice Department is still keeping an eye on the company.

According to Bloomberg, with the conditions set to expire on Sept. 1, the DOJ’s antitrust division sent a letter to Comcast asking the company to disclose any changes it might make after the conditions expire.

“We would appreciate your cooperation in keeping us informed by providing the department with any plans you may have to change your policies or practices involving video programming and distribution,” wrote Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

When the Comcast-NBCU merger was approved, conditions were placed on those companies to ensure that they continued to negotiate carriage deals with competitors in good faith, that they continued carrying unaffiliated programming, and that they continued offering their programming online through third parties.

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Since 2012, Comcast has been sending annual reports detailing its compliance with the transaction conditions. Comcast SVP David Cohen runs transaction compliance for Comcast and there are compliance teams in place at both Comcast and NBCU. In its final compliance report filed in January 2018, Comcast said that those teams would stay in place at least through September 2018.

While the DOJ is taking steps to remind Comcast it must continue abiding by antitrust laws, the agency is also busy appealing a court decision that allows AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner to be approved with no conditions.

In the DOJ’s appeal document (PDF), the agency warns that the combination of AT&T and Time Warner will allow AT&T to jack up prices on its distributor rivals for Time Warner’s content, while also protecting its own distribution businesses from arising competition.

“The district court held otherwise, but only by erroneously ignoring fundamental principles of economics and common sense. These errors distorted its view of the evidence and rendered its factual findings clearly erroneous, and they are the subject of this appeal,” the DOJ wrote.