The long-awaited announcement of a deal between cable giant Comcast and NBC/Universal came down this morning. In short, Comcast will now be the majority owner of NBC — long the property of General Electric.
My first concern? Whither the great jokes and story line on NBC’s "30 Rock" involving Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy?
That’s a big concern. I’m sure the great writers for "30 Rock" will figure something out — I expect a whole episode dedicated to it, if not running jokes for weeks — but Jack conniving "ingenious" schemes to cross-promote the products of the Mother Company will just not have the same cache … no offense, Comcast.
Anyway, in my capacity as the co-director of the Center on the Digital Economy for The Heartland Institute, I issued the following statement on the deal today. The intent is to counter the already rising cries that this transaction will somehow harm consumers. Don’t believe it:
"The usual suspects are saying this merger will harm consumers and put too much power in the hands of large corporate forces–and they’re just as wrong as they’ve been every other time they sounded the trumpet of panic.
"Many alarmists said the deal that combined forces between AOL and Time Warner in 2000 would create a media colossus that would crush competition and rub out the vital line between content provider and distributor. A few years later, after bleeding tens of billions of dollars, the companies split apart when the combined operation couldn’t compete.
"The deal that merged Sirius and XM was characterized as dangerous because it would create a monopoly in satellite radio. Instead, it staved off bankruptcy and the complete collapse of that technology as a viable commercial enterprise–at least for now.
"Comcast may indeed establish a business plan in which NBC/Universal content gets priority on its network from consumers who prefer to watch TV on their computers. The proper response should be: So what? Such an arrangement is more likely to hurt Comcast’s bottom line than help it, because consumers quickly punish those who establish ‘walled gardens’ on the Web.
"History proves consumers are the most accurate and powerful regulators of the new media landscape. Government should get out of the way of this merger and revisit the new company on a case-by-case basis in the future to address actual, not theoretical, harms."