Comcast/NBCU Extend Joint Venture Agreement

Parties have agreed to a 90-day extension
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Comcast and NBCU have agreed to a 90-day extension of their proposed $30 billion joint venture. That extension was conveyed to the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday in a filing described by NBC sources as a pro-forma renewal of the deal. Either party had the option of nixing the deal a year after it was struck, unless both sides agreed to an extension for government approvals. Friday (Dec. 3) is the one-year anniversary of the announced agreement, as well as the filing of the original 8K, a form that the government requires when public companies make changes, like mergers and acquisitions, that could affect investors.

The original 8K filing included two 90-day extensions of the agreement "for certain specified government approvals." Those government approvals--from the Justice Department for antitrust review and the FCC for a broader public interest review--had yet to be granted at press time. The FCC's decision could be extended into early next year, according to commission sources, due to the increased activity surrounding the just-announced network neutrality vote for Dec. 21.

The deal is widely expected to be approved, but with a number of conditions that could include access to regional sports networks and perhaps some access or outside arbitration conditions on access to online video as well. One highly placed FCC official expected the deal to be heavily conditioned; another appeared to support that contention with the observation that the draft decision, some parts of which have been circulated among commissioners, may be as much as 200 pages long.

Suggesting the FCC's continued interest in online issues, executives from online video site Hulu.com, of which NBC is part owner, held five separate meetings with FCC staffers this week and answered questions about "future access to video content by OVPDs [online video program distributors]."

Comcast and NBCU remain hopeful the deal can be done by the end of December, and confident that it will, having already lined up a new executive team for NBCU and having employees make benefit elections last month under the assumption of a combined company--as well as a default to the current benefit structure just in case--according to sources.

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