While rumors of the pending deal have been swirling for months, the new venture still faces a regulatory confirmation process that deal watchers estimate will take anywhere from 9 to 18 months to complete.
Although what new media landscape might emerge from this deal is, at this time, speculative, Comcast has created a microsite about the acquisition and Chairman and CEO, Brian L. Roberts, is blogging about the announcement.
The desire to own a media content creation company is not new for Comcast. In 2004 Comcast attempted a hostile takeover of Disney that ultimately failed.
Comcast's interest in this area is not difficult to discern. Television and media watchers like myself have long seen some writing on the wall: winners in the new world will be the ones that can deliver any and all content to viewers on the device and at the time of their choosing.
Several solutions have been developing but none have been completely satisfactory. Comcast has developed its "On-Demand" service, Netflix has partnered with device makers in order to stream content directly to televisions, Apple makes its Apple TV box and using iTunes you can purchase television shows to download to your iPod, DVRs like TiVo allow time shifting of recorded shows, sites like Hulu and Clicker aggregate television content to facilitate one-stop online viewing of free over-the-air and cable television without the subscription or the television set, and television manufacturers are working on developing internet enabled televisions that will cut out the service provider and device middlemen.
However content creators still hold some important cards in this poker game for the future. Mailing physical DVDs is not the future and no company is more aware of this than Netflix (Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Netflix). That's why they've been developing their on-demand streaming services and what allows them to lead in this arena is the existing relationships they have with studios, from their original DVD-rentals-by-mail business, with whom they must negotiate to get the rights to stream their content.
Each new change in technology requires a new round of standards, permissions and deals to be made. As both the content creator (Universal Studios, NBC Television and the plethora of cable channels NBC and Comcast each own) and deliverer (Comcast's cable and internet services) Comcast positions itself to better take advantage of an ability to provide whatever consumers want, wherever they gravitate as broadcast TV, DVD and other media models rapidly decline. If they could manage to acquire a mobile phone service provider and device manufacturer, Comcast could completely dominate where I think we are headed: i.e., everything must be accessible via a handheld device like a cell phone. And in negotiation with themselves they can not only better control the process but profit from it as well.
BlogHer co-founder and CEO, Lisa Stone, sees the potential for an exciting future with the new Comcast:
Full disclosure: GE/NBCU are investors in BlogHer through the Peacock Equity Fund. But that doesn't change my opinion that, from the outside, the synergy of media assets between NBCU and Comcast is pretty exciting. The joint venture will be a video powerhouse immediately, but it seems to me that the sleeper opportunity is digital. Just imagine what one could accomplish for women online with the multimedia and .com assets of E! and DailyCandy to iVillage, BravoTV, and Oxygen, not to mention MSNBC and CNBC.com.No crystal ball is without some clouds in the picture, however. The merger of AOL and Time Warner in an effort to dominate the future media world provides an important cautionary tale. Nevertheless it seems to make smart business sense for both Comcast and G.E.. The potential for monopoly power, however, frightens a number of observers, especially supporters of net neutrality principles who are particularly concerned given Comcast's previous troubles with the FCC over their perceived attempts to throttle the internet and to limit and control and, some believe, ultimately tier access.
As a keen observer of television (content and hardware) and opiner on its digital future (delivery, consumption and business models), I will be watching this deal and how the changes it ultimately will bring about play out. What possibilities do you see? Are you concerned about regulatory, monopoly or net neutrality issues? What opportunities could this deal create for women online?