EU Gives OK To Comcast/NBCU Merger


The European Union has given its blessing to the Comcast-NBC Universal merger; issues slowing the process in the U.S. do not apply abroad. Since Comcast's massive cable system is not in operation there, the combined business will not control distribution and content -- at least in the near term. 

Although perhaps unlikely, Comcast could make a bid to acquire distribution systems overseas. More relevant is how adding NBCU opens up international opportunities for the cable operator.

Cable networks such as CNBC are carried in Europe, and Universal films are released there. NBCU programming is licensed, and its Web sites are accessible. NBCU operates, for example, the Hallmark Channel in nearly 10 million U.K. homes with shows such as "Law & Order: SVU." From the Comcast side, the company has a stake in MGM, which has films and distributes programming.



Comcast would control 51% of the new entity. The EU determined that the joint venture would not "significantly impede" competition, while "combined market shares" would remain limited in all countries that fall under the European Economic Area.

U.S. matters -- such as whether a bulked-up Comcast will use its heft to provide increased distribution for NBCU channels at the expense of others, and import signals from other markets into one served by an obstreperous station -- do not apply.

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