Video services

Does Comcast Have Eyes for NBCU?

8:35 AM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is sitting on a pile of cash, and the rumor mill has been wondering if the nation's largest MSO might dip into it to help it make a big content play (like its failed $54 billion bid for Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) in 2004) or if it might pursue Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and expedite its move into wireless and service mobility.

According to a report in The Wrap that broke Wednesday night, the MSO is preparing to make a massive move into content, said to be in talks to buy NBC Universal for the tidy sum of $35 billion.

Speaking at a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. conference last month, Comcast COO Steve Burke did note that "content and distribution work well together" when asked about the MSO's M&A interests. He later added that the MSO might also look to buy additional cable systems "if the economics were right" now that Comcast is free of a 30 percent ownership cap. (See Court Scraps Cable Ownership Cap .)

Last night, Comcast didn't deny that it's at least talking about buying some or all of the media giant, so there may be some fire to all this NBCU smoke.

"While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate," Comcast said in a prepared statement.

The Wrap report claims that bankers representing Comcast and NBCU owner General Electric hammered out the deal points in New York on Tuesday, noting that NBCU minority stakeholder, Vivendi , has been preparing to exercise its right to sell its 20 percent stake in the entertainment company via an initial public offering.

And Comcast reportedly was among the parties interested in snapping up that equity, but it could now have even larger intentions as it looks for new growth engines and ways to boost the amount of skin (and copyright control) it will have in the "TV Everywhere" game. (See Comcast Nears 'TV Everywhere' Launch.)

NBCU's stable includes NBC and several cable channels, including Bravo, SyFy, CNBC, and MSNBC. It also owns about a third of Hulu LLC , an online video hub that provides content to Comcast's Fancast Web TV portal.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2009, the telecom industry’s premier event for the exploration of a comprehensive entertainment convergence strategy, to be staged in Orlando, Fla., November 10-12. For more information, or to register, click here.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:55:16 PM
re: Does Comcast Have Eyes for NBCU?

 Although Comcast has indicated that it's got an appetite for content acquisitions, a deal for NBCU will face some significant hurdles, according to Sanford Bernstein analyst  Craig Moffett.

"We have argued in the past that the conditions that would almost certainly be attached to any large vertical merger would be onerous at best, and would make it exceptionally difficult to create value in such as transaction," Moffett said in a note issued this morning. "Such conditions would likely include binding arbitration and no-blackout provisions in the event of programming disputes with third party distributors. Cross-ownership of NBC broadcasting stations in Comcast's regional markets, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco, would also pose significant regulatory challenges."

He also thinks that GE's "first preference" is to see a third party buy Vivendi's 20% stake in NBCU…and that's not something he views as that beneficial to Comcast.  "In the event Comcast were to acquire [Vivendi's] 20% interest it would include all of the regulatory burdens but none of the benefits," he said.

Sign In