What Comcast's deal to buy control of NBC Universal means:
_ The nation's largest cable TV operator would gain control of the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks; 26 local TV stations; an array of popular cable channels including CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen; the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks; and a stake in Hulu, which distributes free television programming online.
_ With better integration of content and distribution, Universal movies could reach cable more quickly after showing in theaters, and TV shows could appear faster on cell phones and other devices as part of Comcast's plans to let viewers watch programs wherever they want.
_ Comcast pledged that NBC Universal shows that now cost money over its cable video-on-demand service would be free for three years after the deal closes. And it would maintain free, over-the-air TV on NBC stations _ a business model that is eroding because of falling advertising revenue.
_ The company also pledged to improve public interest programming and promised not to let its business interests affect NBC News.
_ Despite promises of benefits for consumers, consumer advocates and even other cable operators worry that monthly pay-TV bills could rise. Once Comcast controls NBC Universal, other subscription-TV operators such as DirecTV would be negotiating with a rival on how much they have to pay to carry NBC broadcast and cable channels. An NBC Universal under Comcast might be less willing to budge than one under GE. Faster increases in programming fees would likely be passed to customers.
_ Public interest groups are also concerned that Comcast could begin charging for Hulu and denying other video sites access to its media content because Internet video may represent a threat to its core cable TV operations. Comcast said it has no plans to charge for Hulu and pointed out that NBC Universal is only a co-owner.
_ There are also fears of discrimination _ that Comcast would drop smaller, independent channels that it doesn't own from its lineup, and that it would block rival services from carrying its sports channels and other programs. Comcast promised that once it has switched to all-digital TV by 2011, it will add six new independent channels over three years.