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Comcast and NBC Universal give themselves more time to close deal

December 3, 2010 | 11:49 am

With regulatory approval still weeks if not months away, Comcast and NBC Universal have extended the term of their merger agreement to March of next year.

The original agreement was due to expire today -- one year after it was announced that the nation's biggest cable and broadband operator would marry  a content giant whose holdings include NBC, Universal Studios and several top-rated cable networks.

The deal has been under review by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department.  Among the challenges for lawmakers are what conditions should be put on the two companies to ease concerns that the merged entity will flex its muscle in such a way that its competitors are potentially harmed both in terms of getting content onto the television screen via Comcast's cable and online through its broadband operations.

Although the deal still has not closed, that hasn't stopped Comcast from detailing its management structure for NBC Universal. Steve Burke, Comcast's No. 2 executive behind CEO Brian Roberts, will run the company. Last month, he announced an executive structure that includes having former Showtime programming chief Bob Greenblatt in charge of NBC's entertainment operations. Exiting NBC Universal after the deal are CEO Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin, who oversaw the company's television entertainment operations.

The rush to name a team before the deal is closed irked some lawmakers and media watchdogs. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) even wrote the Justice Department suggesting it investigate Comcast for  starting to run the company before it was given the keys.

-- Joe Flint