Comcast finalizes deal for NBCUniversal

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 30 2011 07:51 AM | Updated as of Jan 30 2011 03:51 PM

NEW YORK – Comcast Corp. said Saturday it finalized a deal for control of NBCUniversal, creating a media and entertainment empire that rivals that of The Walt Disney Company.

"This transaction brings together the rich traditions of some of the world's most well known and respected entertainment, news and sports brands at NBCUniversal with the technology and consumer reach of Comcast, creating the ideal entertainment and distribution company," said Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts.

The deal gives cable giant Comcast a controlling 51-percent stake in the media-entertainment powerhouse, while US conglomerate General Electric retains 49 percent.

Comcast is the largest cable television operator and high-speed Internet provider in the United States while NBCUniversal has a vast array of news, movie and television properties.

The deal was announced in December 2009 with the transaction valued at $30 billion at the time.

French group Vivendi said Wednesday that it had sold its remaining 12.34-percent stake in NBCU to General Electric for $3.8 billion.

NBCUniversal comprises NBC -- the oldest of the four major US broadcast networks -- financial news channel CNBC, news channel MSNBC, The Weather Channel, Bravo and the Spanish-language Telemundo.

It also includes one of Hollywood's most storied film studios, Universal Pictures, and theme parks in the United States and Japan.

"NBCU has been a great business for GE over the past 20 years, generating an average annual return of 11 percent," said GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.

"Reducing our ownership stake to 49 percent allows GE to continue sharing in NBCU's growth while also providing significant cash to invest in our high-technology infrastructure businesses."

Besides being the largest US Internet service provider, Comcast already owns several television channels including the Style Network, the Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television.

The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based company is active on the Web with Fancast.com, an online video portal, movie ticketing service Fandango and online address book and social network Plaxo.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the acquisition while the Justice Department's anti-trust division announced a settlement that would allow it to go ahead with several conditions to address concerns on the merging of a major content firm with the cable and Internet delivery giant.

The conditions include a requirement that Comcast license programming to online competitors to its cable television services and that it license NBC Universal content to Comcast's cable, satellite and telephone competitors.

Comcast also agreed to relinquish any management role in online video entertainment site Hulu.com, a joint venture between NBC Universal, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Disney.

Comcast is also required to make NBC Universal programming available to Hulu comparable to that which Hulu receives from News Corp. and Disney.

Comcast-NBCU will also be required to increase local news coverage, expand children's programming, provide more programming for Spanish-speaking viewers and offer cheap broadband services to low-income Americans.

Comcast's revenue was $32 billion dollars in 2009 while NBC Universal reported revenue of $15.4 billion.

By comparison, Disney's revenue last year was around $41 billion dollars while another US media and entertainment giant, Time Warner, had annual revenue of $26.54 billion in 2010.