Comcast: On The Record

Last Thursday Comcast was on my mind.

For obvious reasons, one might assume this was because Comcast acquired NBC Universal. In fact, Comcast’s purchase of NBCU gave the Philadelphia-based company control of about $30 Billion worth of media assets, including dozens of broadcast TV networks, online cable channels and a movie studio. It also gave Comcast and 89-year-old Founder, Ralph Roberts, a news and entertainment legacy as American as apple pie, and one that General Electric had owned since 1986: the iconic NBC News brand.

For reasons not so obvious, that morning the merger wasn’t on my mind. Instead I was thinking about the details of my trip to the Comcast service center later that week. But by the end of the day, and on the eve of one of the largest and perhaps most ambitious media mergers, I had a different kind of encounter with the largest cable provider in the country. I had the opportunity to talk with David Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast, and inspect with questions the blueprint of the deal.

Cohen, who was in Washington for meetings and media appearances, sat down with five DC-based bloggers, including myself, to field questions. Here are some of his answers.

On NBC News | MSNBC | CNBC
We made a commitment to preserve the journalistic integrity of all the news assets on the cable and broadcast side…and we’re very serious about that. I think professional journalists need to feel they’re allowed to be professional journalists, and there isn’t someone looking over their shoulder saying, “What did you say that for?”

On Hulu.com
We have no plans to convert Hulu to a subscription model. We’re not trying to do this transaction to attach cost to video that’s currently available for free over the Internet. That’s not our vision. (*Comcast is now one of several partners in Hulu, with about 27 percent stake*).

Possible Pitfalls of the Merger
The Bill O’Reilly/ Keith Olbermann Wars: We’re totally committed to let Keith Olbermann be Keith Olbermann. We don’t have any problem with that. Jeff Immelt was committed to letting Keith Olbermann be Keith Olbermann too, and all of a sudden for a month, he’s like a national story. That’s going to be an adjustment for us.

On Local News
The other part of this business that we are very interested in is local news. We continue to believe one of the things that cause people to watch local television is quality local news. Local public interest programs, public affairs programs, etc. And that is a part of the business that has been starved, not just at NBC, but across the board. We think we have some ideas…and we are committing ourselves to preserve and enrich the localism aspect of local broadcast stations.

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I want to thank David Cohen for taking the time to discuss Comcast’s deal with a small group of new media aficionados such as myself. In many ways, it indicates Comcast’s acute awareness of the direction that media is moving in – diverse, niche, and without major budgets. While I was probably the only self-identified journalist at the table, the group that surrounded me was perhaps Washington’s newest class of media watchdogs. It left me to consider that no matter what form these watchdogs come in, in the bright lights or in the back of a restaurant, it is…well, we are, as American as apple pie. I just look forward to the day when we get to the front row.

For an archive of the articles I referenced and sourced for this post, please visit my Delicious bookmarks under the tag Comcast001.

3 comments

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  1. Mary Beth

    Just like so many other monopolies in this country, how this is legal is beyond me. There are reasons one entity should not have control and the media is most important. Not that mainstream journalism has been truthful, complete, unbiased or fair of late. This, however, smacks of corporate run Pravda.

  2. Benjamin Barnett

    Comcast has been doing local content for the web since 1996 when I was a New Media Specialist for their online dept. They are ruthless in their pursuit of this angle for their “subscribers” and their acquisition of such a property has been in the wind for years. It remains to be seen how neutral they can be.

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