Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Consent Decree Permitting Comcast/NBC Joint Venture Approved

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The federal district court in Washington, D.C. has approved a consent decree resolving Department of Justice Antitrust Division concerns over a joint venture between Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co.’s subsidiary NBC Universal Inc.

The joint venture combined Comcast—the nation’s largest cable operator and Internet service provider—and NBC Universal's cable networks, filmed entertainment, and television programming, including the NBC broadcast network. It is managed and 51 percent owned by Comcast, with GE holding 49 percent ownership.

The consent decree resolved allegations that the transaction, as originally proposed, would lessen competition substantially in the market for video programming distribution by allowing Comcast to disadvantage its traditional competitors—direct broadcast satellite and telephone companies that provide video services—as well as emerging online video distributors (OVDs).

The consent decree was found to be in the public interest. However, the court imposed additional steps to monitor implementation of the final judgment.

The parties were required to report to the court for two years regarding the consent decree’s non-appealable arbitration mechanism for OVDs seeking to obtain the joint venture’s video programming content. An annual hearing was also required.

The case is U.S. v. Comcast Corp. A memorandum order, finding the consent decree in the public interest, appears at 2011-2 Trade Cases ¶77,584. The final judgment appears at 2011-2 Trade Cases ¶77,585.

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