SBD/Issue 59/Sports Media

Comcast Committed To Cable, Broadcast After NBC Uni Acquisition

 
Comcast "at every turn … has emphasized to its own shareholders" that the purpose of buying control of NBC Universal from GE is to "gain control over NBC Universal's fast-growing cable channels," according to Brian Stelter of the N.Y. TIMES. A NBC News staffer said, "Everyone's now talking about NBC as a cable company, and Comcast is a cable company. I guess we're wondering, do they like broadcast?" But Stelter wrote they do "on the record," as Comcast "could toss a lifesaver of sorts to the broadcaster business by supporting per-subscriber payments to stations, or so-called retransmission agreements." Comcast was "noncommittal about retransmission last week, saying only that it hoped to play a constructive role." Meanwhile, Comcast "did not commit to keeping the name NBC Universal after the deal closes." Stelter notes some Comcast officials are "keen on using the Comcast Entertainment name in the future, although it is doubtful that the 'NBC Nightly News' will become the 'Comcast Nightly News' anytime soon" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7).

WAITING FOR APPROVAL: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Paul Bond reports GE "plans to buy at least $59[M] worth of ads each year for five years once the deal" closes. GE also will buy $50M in ads "for the 2012 Olympics, bringing the total five-year commitment" to at least $345M (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 12/7). CABLEFAX DAILY writes a "big question is whether approval of the deal might be contingent on Comcast losing the terrestrial loophole exemption" for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. Comcast Exec VP/Content Acquisition David Cohen "knows the issue will come up but doesn't believe it relates to the transaction." Cohen: "When NFL and DirecTV are prepared to make Sunday Ticket available to the cable industry on a non-discriminatory basis, we're prepared to give up the terrestrial exemption'" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 12/7).

NBC Could Still Be Backed By GE
When It Bids For '14, '16 Games
UP IN THE AIR: AROUND THE RINGS' Rosen, Steinberg & Hula noted it "could take up to a year for regulators and shareholders to approve the deal, meaning that NBC will still be backed by GE when it comes to make a formal bid to the IOC for the rights" to the '14 and '16 Olympics, which "could exceed" $1B. Whether the pending deal with Comcast "affects how much NBC will bid remains to be seen" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 12/3). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman listed the Olympics as one of "10 Things To Watch About Comcast-NBCU," and wondered if the deal throws a "wrench into the conventional wisdom that Disney will easily outbid everyone" for the rights. The Olympics are a "major vanity play," and if Comcast is "serious about getting into sports as it has always planned with Versus, this would be a tough property to lose." Grossman also listed Versus/NBC Sports as something to watch, and wrote, "Whether or not they 'go after ESPN' is not the point; there is plenty of room for both if Comcast can grab a big-time property or two" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com 12/5).

NOT IMPRESSED: MEDIAPOST's David Goetzl noted USA Today's sports media columnist Michael Hiestand in an appearance on a Toronto radio station on November 25 indicated he liked NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol, but then "kept ripping him." Hiestand: "I have to take my hat off to Dick for self-promotion over the years. If you look at NBC in this decade what exactly have they done now?" Goetzl noted Hiestand suggested in the interview that there was "profligacy under Ebersol's watch," saying there is "so much fat in that budget" (MEDIAPOST.com, 12/4). Hiestand, on NBC: "They got Arena Football and said it's the most exciting game ever if it was just televised right. They picked up the NHL, which continues to get essentially zero ratings. They were one of the big backers of the XFL till its ratings fell apart and then they said, 'No, it was all Vince McMahon's idea.' Their Notre Dame ratings are setting all-time lows. If you took out the Michael Phelps ratings in Beijing, those were sort of so-so, same with Torino in '06. ... I'm not really sure what it is that he would do that other people won't do because when it comes to buying sports rights, me and my dog could pick up Olympic rights if we bid a buck more than the opponents" (FAN590.com, 11/25).

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