John Malone: Comcast-NBC would have too much power

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 12:00 PM

Media mogul John Malone said Thursday that Comcast Corp.'s plan to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal would give it too much market power and force competitors to consider similar acquisitions.

Comcast Corp. _ the nation's largest cable TV provider _ is in talks to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. GE is negotiating to buy back Vivendi SA's 20 percent ownership in NBC Universal and then sell a majority stake to Comcast.

Malone, who is chairman of Liberty Media Corp., which has a controlling stake in satellite TV carrier DirecTV Group Inc., said GE did not approach him about investing in NBC Universal.

"It was developed very quietly between Comcast and GE and they did not seek any other," Malone told The Associated Press on Thursday.

NBC Universal owns broadcast and cable channels and the Universal Studios movie studio and theme parks. Malone said a combined Comcast-NBC would be a big threat to competitors because of the potential for the venture to charge higher fees for its programming. Subscription-TV operators such as DirecTV pay NBC Universal and other programmers for the right to carry their cable channels.

Malone's comments served as a reminder that Comcast's rivals figure to lobby regulators to take a close look at the deal and possibly impose restrictions on it. Malone said that if regulators approve the venture, it would cause a ripple effect among competitors that might try other acquisitions or partnerships as a way to "protect themselves."

Comcast declined to comment.

Shares of Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, were down 38 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $14.75 in morning trading. DirecTV, based in El Segundo, Calif., lost 40 cents to $30.64.