Comcast era at NBC begins

The Comcast Center in Philadelphia, and an NBC sign at its studios in Burbank, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: You're probably not going to notice much when you turn on your TV tomorrow morning, other than maybe only that the Peacock's gone from the logo. But behind the scenes at NBC, things are going to be very different.

Comcast's $14 billion takeover of NBC Universal becomes official tomorrow. It pairs a huge media distribution powerhouse Comcast with a media content workhorse in NBC. Marketplace's Janet Babin explores what consumers can expect from the merger.


Janet Babin: Programming-wise, the Comcast takeover is expected to restore NBC, after a string of primetime fiascos. Editor Matthew Belloni at the Hollywood Reporter says NBC has gone from first place to worst place in six years.

Matthew Belloni: They had a failed experiment last year putting Jay Leno on at 10 o'clock, which eviscerated their ratings and caused the affiliates to revolt and say that they wouldn't carry the network.

Comcast already fired NBC's programming chief; the new guy is from Showtime. So Belloni expects we'll see racier content on the new NBC Universal -- something like Showtime's latest hit "Shameless." It's about an alcoholic father and his motherless kids.

Clip from "Shameless": We may not have much, but we know how to party.

Belloni: You're not going to see nudity and profanity on NBC, but you might see shows that push the envelope a little bit more.

This takeover pushes the envelope in other ways too. There's never been a merger of such a dominant cable and Internet company that will now also control so much content.

Sascha Meinrath is director of the New America Foundation's open technology initiative. He says Comcast could make it difficult for subscribers to, say, stream movies or TV shows from Netflix.

Sascha Meinrath: They don't make money off of other people's content; they make money when you watch their content. And so they have this incentive to prevent you from watching other people's content.

Meinrath expects more of these mergers, as distribution and content companies link to compete against the new NBC Universal. And he says, the reduced competition will lead to higher cable and Internet bills.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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