How can we tell if the Comcast-NBC merger will be a good thing?
Here are some possible consequences if all goes well (among them made by NBC Universal president/CEO Jeff Zucker and Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts in recent Senate hearings):
1. The new company will create more jobs, and not lay off anyone.
2. Prices for cable programming packages for consumers will go down.
3. There will be more room for independent producers to get access to NBC time slots in primet ime, daytime, early morning and late night.
4. A stronger broadcast network means more choice for TV advertisers.
5. NBC's ratings and advertising revenue will rise.
6. NBC's stations will thrive once again.
7. Comcast's profitability will improve.
8. And, finally, we'll all be better entertained.
I'd sign on to that.
NBC/Comcast honchos can promise the world, much as politicians do. The problem is, we can't vote them out of office. We can't filibuster their proposed "bills" -- actions concerning monthly cable rate hikes, show cancellations, or cast changes.
Selling media consolidation has been, and will always be, a tough job. You can't please everyone, shareholders included.
If the merger doesn't go their way, average consumers will shrug shoulders and flip the channel button on the remote to another number -- 57 or 363 or 467 or 678. Or, if all this becomes too expensive, they'll go to the Internet. Or, if that is too expensive, they'll gaze into space and just imagine TV shows, compelling characters and story arcs.
Zucker told a Senate hearing the merger will create more jobs --- that is, if Federal regulators don't put too many restrictions on the new company's growth activities.
Will cable rates stay the same? Cable system operators have always said cable networks spend a lot on programming, which means they need to raise monthly cable fees.
Letting more outside or independent producers in the door? Traditionally these have only been the likes of just a handful of non-big broadcast network players, mostly Warner Bros., occasionally Sony. More recently reality TV producers are getting in, at, no doubt, lower program license fees.
Will the merger really work? Go to your media therapist, and ask the key question: Do you love your broadcast network, or do you have issues.
As with any relationship, Congress increasingly wants to find out if media companies can meet consumers' deepest needs. If not, more psychoanalysis could be the result.