As a kid I remember hearing the voice-over announcement, that would precede NBC color television shows, “The following is brought to you in Living Color on NBC,” and watching the peacock spread its colorful feathers, thinking wow this is pretty cool.
This week the first step was taken into a new era of television. When Comcast and General Electric (GE) finalize their deal that will give Comcast a controlling 51 percent stake in NBC Universal (NBCU), it will spawn a media behemoth. As reported in the New York Times, Comcast is agreeing to pay GE $6.5 billion in cash and contribute its own cable channels, such as E! and Style, estimated at $7.25 billion for a total of $13.75 Billion. The new joint venture will be headed up by the current head of NBCU, Jeffrey Zucker.
The significance of this deal lies in the potential derived from combining a TV and movie content creator with a media distributor. Comcast will now offer its extensive customer base to cable channels such as Oxygen and Bravo, NBCU’s movie studio Universal Pictures and the NBC Network.
The integration of Comcast’s internet, mobile phones, and cable with their shiny new toy box filled with NBCU’s extensive library of movies and TV shows is unprecedented.
“In the next five years, more people will be seeing ‘The Tonight Show’ online than on their television sets,” says Paul Levinson, a media analyst at Fordham University in New York. “The convergence will be so extensive that in 10 or 15 years, we won’t be talking television screen versus online because they’ll all be the same screens.”
This deal still has several hurdles ahead; a long regulatory review by the FCC and anti-trust regulators is expected. Several unanswered questions remain, particularly “How does Comcast intend to provide their ‘exclusive’ content to its competitors, like Verizon and Dish Network.
How will this deal affect network TV from a consumer standpoint? Will this mark the beginning of the end of “free TV”? While we wait to see, one thing is certain though: the peacock is once again spreading its wings, only this time it’s to an audience of about 45 million Comcast customers.
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