The U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice have approved Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) $13.8 billion acquisition of NBC Universal, making way for a $30 billion joint venture that will host a slew of cable networks and movies.
In a 4-1 vote on Tuesday, the FCC determined that the deal, which creates a company with a combined 16.7 million broadband subscribers and 23 million cable customers, is in the nation’s public interest, seeing it complies with certain conditions.
The deal has been under intense criticism since Comcast purchased the 51% stake from General Electric (NYSE:GE) in December 2009.
The conditions, among other things, are intended to ensure that the nation’s largest cable provider share NBC programming, such as MSNBC and USA Network, with cable, satellite and Internet rivals. They are meant to stop the conglomerate from trampling competition, which could ultimately lead to an increase in prices for customers, according to the Department of Justice.
Comcast, which is required to take steps to foster competition in the video marketplace, is required to relinquish its management rights in Hulu, which NBC owns in combination with News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) and Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), but it must still contribute content to the site.
Also according to the deal, Comcast will have to offer online video distributors the same package of broadcast and cable channels as it sells to traditional video programming distributors.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski signed off on the deal in December, noting in a statement that the conditions will ensure competition drives innovation in the emerging online video marketplace. Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps however, who cast the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns that the combined company places too much power in one company’s hands.
The Justice Department, which approved the deal later on Tuesday, announced its own conditions with the approval aimed at mediating competition, including anti-retaliation provisions that adhere to open Internet requirements.
Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the department's antitrust division, said the conditions will maintain an open and fair marketplace while allowing the innovative aspects of the transaction to move forward.