DoJ approval means NBC-Comcast deal to close this month

Varney said the Hulu condition was to prevent NBC Universal from using its management input to purposely run the site into the ground and said having an NBCU-Comcast official on the board represented a clear conflict.

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen told reporters the conditions won't have any impact on Comcast's plans for NBC Universal and in some cases represent improvements over how disputes were resolved in the past.

"I don't think any of the conditions are particularly restrictive," Cohen said. "Like you, we haven't seen the FCC's order. A lot of what I describe represents our understanding of how this will operate."


Cohen said the Justice Department, like the FCC, structured its conditions in a manner that would require some NBCU-Comcast video content be made available to online video distributors (OVD), but only if said distributors were granted access to comparable content from one of NBC Universal's peers.

The Department of Justice will retain the authority to respond to any complaints from OVDs that Comcast is violating the terms of the consent decree, but Varney said in most cases Justice will defer to the FCC on enforcement issues.

Varney said Justice's antitrust division plans on keeping a close watch to maintain competitiveness in the market for online video going forward.

"This settlement demonstrates how the antitrust laws offer critical protection to nascent markets as well as consumers in the digital age," Varney said. "We will vigorously enforce the settlement to prevent harm to competition in video distribution."

Cohen said the conditions also include exceptions for traditionally exclusive programming like local sports broadcasts or first-run movies. Comcast will also be required to maintain the availability of stand alone broadband Internet service at a rate of $49.95 per month for three years.

Advocacy groups were mixed on the announcement, with some thanking the government for imposing the conditions while others lamented the absence of more stringent requirements.


“We are grateful that the Antitrust Division’s analysis provided the foundation for strong protections against potential abuse by Comcast of its position as the country’s largest broadband provider and now as one of the largest content suppliers as well," said Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld.

“Perhaps most importantly, the Department’s analysis shows clearly why network neutrality and program access remain critical for protecting competition and the public.”

"The conditions placed on the merger fall well short of serving the public interest," said Parents Television Council president Tim Winter. "

"Unless and until Americans are able to determine for themselves which programming they will pay for, a consolidation of media conglomerates such as this one will undermine the public interest. The public can be sure of one thing today: It is business as usual with the lobbyist powerbrokers in Washington."