How powerful is Comcast about to become?
A Comcast sign is visible outside its customer care center June 9, 2004 in Romeoville, Ill.
The proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal was announced over a year ago. It is expected to finally be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department in the next few weeks. But that approval may very well come with some restrictions aimed at limiting, or at least containing the power that the company would have.
It may be possible, for instance, that regulators would require Comcast to sell of the 32 percent stake it would hold in Hulu. That way Comcast wouldn't be able to block non-Comcast Internet subscribers from seeing Comcast-owned shows, and Comcast wouldn't be able to charge its own customers extra for seeing shows that aren't from Comcast. Regulators might also block Comcast from demanding that someone be a cable subscriber before they can see shows online.
It's all very confusing and I could barely even follow those last few sentences myself even though I was the one who wrote them. But that's what we're dealing with in discussing an entity that will have its hand in so many different media entities.
Steve Schultze is associate director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton. He joins us to explain what Comcast is, what it may become, and what the regulators are doing to try to keep a grip on it.