Not surprisingly, the mega merger between Comcast and NBC Universal has raised the eyebrows of federal regulators who are closely scrutinizing the deal to better gauge the implications it may have on the industry. While one shouldn’t expect a true antitrust investigation that would block the deal (since the 2 entities aren’t competitors), the Wall Street Journal reports that regulators won’t hesitate to put restrictions on the deal that would preclude Comcast from “withholding, or threatening to withhold” NBC Universal content from competing media distributors such as Apple and Netflix.
The FCC is looking at all parts of Comcast and NBC Universal’s combined online-video distribution chain for ways Comcast could promote content over its rivals. The agency is considering imposing a “net neutrality” condition on Comcast’s Internet network, banning it from deliberately slowing or blocking legal traffic.
FCC staff members are meeting twice a week with commission Chairman Julius Genachowski about the deal and have set an internal deadline of circulating proposed conditions by mid-December, according to a person familiar with the review. Earlier, the FCC review appeared to be on a January or early February timetable.
Apple has warred with NBC Universal in the past over iTunes pricing, and for a short while, NBC Universal content was pulled entirely from the iTunes store.