10 Things to Watch About Comcast-NBCU

Amidst so much other commentary, and still more possibilities for further claims about the merger’s significance for industry, platform and user convergences (and beyond #10 here, synergies), a nicely grounded piece from Ben Grossman at Broadcasting & Cable.

“10 Things to Watch About Comcast-NBCU”

First came the deal, now comes the waiting. As the mega-merger between Comcast and NBCU goes through its process, here are 10 things I’m wondering about.

1 Jeff Zucker’s fate. Comcast can appreciate a great cable business as much as anyone, and under Zucker, NBC Universal has grown into one. But the broadcast network’s fall under his watch has industry insiders buzzing about whether he will make the cut or not.

2 Jay Leno’s fate. Will Comcast share NBC’s long-term view of the 10 p.m. experiment and Conan at 11:35, or will they use the ownership change as an excuse to move Leno and his 5 million faithful viewers back to 11:35 and let Conan become a free agent? Either way, you have to admire Leno’s sucking up the night before the deal was announced. His guest: E!’s Kim Kardashian.

3 Versus/NBC Sports. Amortizing rights fees over the cable side could give Dick Ebersol a new sling of arrows to fire at some major sports acquisitions. While a deal like the NFL on NBC is a money loser (as are all NFL network deals) having a full-time cable outlet, as well as some regional sports nets, opens up a whole new ballgame. Whether or not they “go after ESPN” is not the point; there is plenty of room for both if Comcast can grab a big-time property or two.

4 The Olympics. Does this deal throw a wrench into the conventional wisdom that Disney will easily outbid everyone for the next Olympics package? Zucker says Comcast-NBCU will look at it “if it makes sense.” Fiscally alone it doesn’t, as evidenced by the right fees NBC faced in Beijing and even more so in Vancouver. But it is a major vanity play as well, and if Comcast is serious about getting into sports as it has always planned with Versus, this would be a tough property to lose.

5 The NBC Name. Will it go away? More than one NBC insider has guessed Comcast may want to ditch the name NBC Universal altogether at some point. The guess here is Comcast Entertainment becomes the parent but the NBC network keeps its name.

6 Musical Chairs. Take Jeff Shell, Ted Harbert, Jeff Gaspin, Marc Graboff, Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick, to name a few. There’s lots of talent in this group. But will there be enough seats for all of them when the regulatory and logistical music stops?

7 Hulu. Last week, the Comcast execs said they could see network programming stay available for free on Hulu, with cable programming living behind an authentication wall to protect cable operators. By the time this deal closes, there will be a pay model for Hulu, so despite what the bigwigs said, it’s really not that simple. I’m not sure a Comcast-Hulu marriage will last; at the very least, it should see some Eldrick-Elin-type bumps.

8 Xfinity. Apparently, Comcast is changing the name of OnDemand Online to “Xfinity.” If that doesn’t sound like a club in Vegas that guys go to with a stack of $1 bills, I don’t know what does. Not that I would know. Anyway, here’s hoping the NBC creative types can help Comcast come up with a more appropriate moniker.

9 The Friday Night Lights Model. A while back, Steve Burke told me that if the right opportunity arose, Comcast would look at a similar model to the DirecTV deals, in which the satellite provider gets a first run of a show and picks up a chunk of the production tab, with the second run airing on a network. It’ll be interesting to see if Comcast experiments with some reverse-windowing now that it has its own network, or if that model is just dead.

10 Synergies. Obviously, brands like Bravo and Style have crossover to spare, and Joel McHale already traversed the companies with shows on both E! and NBC, but how else will synergies pop up? A Kardashians theme-park ride? Must. Resist. Lewd. Joke.

E-mail comments to ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com


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