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Comcast Says Merger Completion Will Slip To Next Year Comcast Says Merger Completion Will Slip To Next Year

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Comcast Says Merger Completion Will Slip To Next Year


An NBC sign stands at the NBC studios on December 1, 2009 in Burbank, California. A tentative agreement has been reached to sell Vivendis 20 percent stake in NBC Universal to General Electric (GE) for about $5.8 billion. Analysts expect GE, the primary owner of NBC for more than two decades, to sell its ownership interest to Comcast.(David McNew/Getty Images)

Comcast said Wednesday that despite its hopes of closing the deal by the end of 2010, a decision on whether regulators should approve the proposed merger with NBC Universal will slip to next year.

"We believe the FCC and the DOJ continue to make substantial process toward approval of our transaction," Comcast Vice President of Government Communications Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement. "However because of the lead time required to prepare for a close, it now appears that we will not be able to close the transaction with GE relating to NBC Universal by year-end. We have notified our transition teams that there will not be a December 31 closing."

Still, the company said it believes the "regulatory review puts us on track" to close the deal in January. The merger is being closely scrutinized by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department.

According to filings with the FCC, regulators and the two companies are in talks on possible conditions related to the distribution of online video. Several competitors have voiced concern about their ability to access content controlled by Comcast-NBCU after the merger. NBCU controls a major Hollywood studio, the NBC broadcast network and several cable networks.

In a letter filed this week by Comcast, the company said it met Monday with key staffers to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski about "potential conditions under consideration by the commission with respect on the distribution of online video," as well as for how long any proposed conditions would be applied. Comcast noted in approving other mergers, the FCC's conditions were limited to a duration of five years or less.

"We emphasized that, if the commission is trying to craft a condition under which NBC Universal behaves in the online video marketplace as it would have but for the transaction, any benchmarks should focus on the behavior of similarly situated, non-vertically integrated peers," the Comcast letter said.

"We also noted that NBC Universal's current practice is to ensure that, when its content appears on an aggregator's website, other comparable, high-value content is also on that website, and that non-NBC Universal programming makes up a majority of the aggregator's programming. Applicants argued that any condition the commission considers in this area should take that practice into consideration."

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