With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

NBC/Comcast execs make few guarantees to Franken

Posted by: Eric Roper under Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: March 17, 2010 - 5:13 PM

Hulu fans, this post's for you.

In the wake of last month's heated committee hearing with executives from NBC and Comcast, Sen. Al Franken wanted some guarantees that the companies would continue to offer their content online on sites like Hulu.com after the proposed merger.

Their responses, however, were a far cry from binding proclamations.

While both companies emphasized their commitment to mass distribution of content, they largely argued that broad promises would be unwise in such a rapidly evolving media environment. In other words, "We'll try, but business is business."

Here are PDFs of responses sent this week to Franken's office from Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC CEO Jeff Zucker. Below are the key portions of their rather lengthy letters:

Will you guarantee that your company won't remove its current shows from the Internet?

NBC: "[I]t would be irresponsible to guarantee that anything will forever remain static...NBC Universal remains committed to providing viewers with the ability to access programs that they want, when and where they want, under a sustainable business model that provides a reasonable return on investment. And specifically, NBC Universal has no plans to remove the kind of shows currently offered over the Internet on an ad-supported basis -- generally, programs that have previously been on over-the-air broadcast television."

Comcast: "[I]t would be premature to set in stone any plans with respect to putting content online in any particular fashion...The joint venture will accelerate our goal of making more, not less, content available online."

Will you guarantee that your company will place any future shows it owns on the Internet?

NBC: "NBCU plans to continue to seek the widest possible distribution of its content on the Internet under a sustainable business model that provides reasonable return on investment. NBCU has no plans to remove the kind of shows currently offered over the Internet on an ad-supported basis -- generally, programs that have previously been exhibited on broadcast television."

Comcast: "No. That is not a guarantee that any owner of high-cost, high-quality programming has made or could responsibly make."

Can you guarantee that the merged company won't provide shows only to the company's cable subscribers?

NBC: "We believe that consumers who pay for subscription television services...want to be able to access online the programming they subscribed to and have paid for through their [television provider]." 

Comcast: "In this dynamic marketplace, Comcast (and others) already provide some content to everyone online, while other content is only available online to our video customers. We do not plan to change that, but neither can we make guarantees about how the marketplace will evolve."

Franken also inquired about several other aspects of the merger, including Net Neutrality, the "terrestrial loophole," and program access (see the PDFs for those more technical answers). On top of that, he asked Comcast to spell out how it will protect the rights of workers to unionize.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters