Comcast announced this morning that its deal with General Electric to buy NBC is going through, pending regulatory approval. For $6.5 billion, Comcast will get a controlling 51% interest in the media empire that includes the NBC television network, Telemundo, a handful of other cable channels, and the Universal Studios movie business. Oh, and they also get the Universal Studios theme parks. (The actual details of the deal are complex, but all told, it will be worth more than $30 billion.)
For GE, the deal means that they get rid of a significant distraction in return for heaps of cash. Entertainment doesn’t mesh all that well with light bulbs, jet engines, and nuclear power plants. If Comcast manages to make money, however, GE’s 49% share could be a handy revenue source.
For its part, Comcast gets an instant leap into media mogul status, becoming a peer of the Disney conglomerate. This means that the company will enjoy vertical integration through the whole process, from the production of the original content, right through its distribution to the consumer through television services, movie theaters, DVDs, and of course, the Internet. The move should strengthen Comcast’s hand in the development of its version of “TV Everywhere”.
One other aspect of the deal is that it will likely accelerate change at Hulu. NBC is one of the major owners, and if the folks at Comcast view the current version of Hulu as a threat to their core cable business or other plans, it could hasten a switch to a subscription model or some other redefinition of the service’s operations.