On Monday, the FCC came back to Comcast and NBCU to ask for more information as it evaluates their proposal to combine. It is the 2nd request for info, following up on queries made to the 2 in the spring. While the 180-day informal merger review clock was not stopped (it’s on day 130), the request is a further indication that this deal may not get done by year-end. Comcast has stated repeatedly that it expects the deal to wrap by the end of ’10, but while this appears to be a standard type of request—it’s still hefty. The FCC asks Comcast for info and docs related to 31 different requests. NBCU is asked to provide details for 10 requests. Responses are due from both on Oct 18.
What sort of things is the FCC looking for? A lot of it has to do with the sort of deals Comcast and NBCU have reached with various distributors. Comcast is supposed to supply its last 2 agreements for distribution for all of its RSNs with Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, DISH, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Bright House, Mediacom, Cable One, WOW!, RCN, Verizon and AT&T. The Commission wants the same info for E!, Golf, Versus, Style and Sprout, and NBCU was told to provide that info for its NBC and Telemundo O&Os as well as USA, Oxygen, Sleuth, Chiller
“The requests could help the FCC determine whether Comcast discriminates against some rivals based on whether they compete with Comcast or based on their size,” said investment firm Stifel Nicolaus.
One of the more random things included involves a request about Comcast’s actions during DISH and Fisher Comm’s retrans dispute in late ’08. Comcast was asked to detail all subscriber acquisition plans related to the spat and provide the number of visitors to a Fisher Website (onlycharlieknows.com) that were redirected to Comcast’s site during the dispute. Obviously, this request has to do with the FCC’s consideration of retrans and Comcast’s rivals. Comcast economists used the Fisher incident to help gauge whether withholding NBC programming would actually be profitable because of customer departure rates. DISH has argued at the FCC that the NBC O&Os are more popular than the Fisher stations and would be more effective for foreclosure.