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Cleared for Takeoff?

11:50 AM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) appears to be a step closer to cobbling together a deal that would allow the MSO to take control of NBC Universal .

A key sticking point has been whether Vivendi and General Electric could agree on the value of NBCU. Multiple reports indicate that Vivendi has tentatively agreed to shed its 20 percent stake in the media giant for about $5.8 billion, paving the way for Comcast and GE to move ahead on a deal that would give the MSO a 51 percent stake in NBCU and establish a larger company that would pool some of Comcast's programming assets. (See Keeping Up With Comcast and Does Comcast Have Eyes for NBCU? )

Although more needs to be ironed out, The New York Times says a deal could be announced as soon as Thursday (December 3), speculating further that GE may end up selling its remaining stake in NBCU to Comcast over the next several years.

Despite some potential upsides, such a deal represents some significant risk to Comcast, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett warned in an earlier research note.

On the plus side, the deal could enable Comcast and NBCU to develop more attractive sports properties, stronger release windows for video-on-demand (VoD), and a faster track for addressable advertising, but "the very attempt to acquire content assets will inevitably reignite the questions about whether [Comcast] CEO Brian Roberts has faith in the attractiveness of his core business," Moffett noted. "It is likely that this perceived 'vote of no confidence' will weigh not just on Comcast shares, but indeed on the whole sector, indefinitely."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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