The independently owned network affiliates of Fox, ABC and CBS requested a meeting with Comcast to make sure Comcast’s proposed $30 billion deal to acquire 51 percent of NBC Universal won’t put non-NBC affiliates at a competitive disadvantage. Up against the unprecedented market power of a combined Comcast/NBCU, non-NBC affiliates could lose negotiating clout when it comes to retransmission agreements and other practices.
In a letter to CBS affiliates dated March 29, Tim Busch, chairman of the CBS affiliates and co-chief operating officer for Nexstar Broadcasting Corp, wrote that he had conferred with Fox and ABC affiliate associations and legal counsel in order to communicate the concerns of affiliates to the Federal Communications Commission.
“Our specific concern is that Comcast/NBCU would have incentives to competitively [make it disadvantageous for] and discriminate against non-NBC affiliated stations in terms of Comcast’s cable carriage, retransmission consent negotiations and advertising and promotion practices,” Busch wrote.
Affiliates are hoping they can persuade Comcast to voluntarily agree to certain regulatory conditions to assure fair treatment as part of the FCC’s approval of the deal.
In a statement, Comcast welcomed the dialogue with affiliates but provided no details. “Comcast is in discussions with a variety of stakeholders, including affiliates of the major broadcast networks and appreciates the constructive way in which they are approaching the discussion,” the company said.
The FCC officially began the review process of the mega transaction a week ago. Comments are due to the FCC May 3 and June 17 for reply comments.
The FCC officially began the review.