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Friends and Foes Weigh in on Comcast-NBCU Deal

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The FCC’s first deadline to submit comments on the proposed merger of Comcast (s CSCMK) and NBC Universal (s GE)’s cable properties ends today, and many companies, labor unions and public interest groups have been filing comments either in support or in opposition of the deal. The FCC’s website currently lists a total of 29,788 filings as part of the commissions consideration proceedings, 11,166 of which were filed this month. To be fair, many of these filings are merely procedural, but quite a few also take a stance in the matter itself.

Comcast’s corporate blog indulged in a little show of force today, showcasing a number of its better-known supporters, including the NHL, the governors of California, New York and Pennsylvania and the mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and more than twenty other cities. A Comcast spokesperson let us know after the blog post was published that the deal also received support from the Director’s Guild of America.

However, there are also some prominent skeptics, a number of which filed a joint letter with the FCC today. Bloomberg, the Communications Workers of America, Free Press, Public Knowledge, the Writers Guild of America and others joined forces to explain why they oppose the merger. From their letter:

“The merged entity will have the ability and incentives to harm the emerging online video distribution market.  Online video programming distributors (OVPDs) pose a serious and growing threat to Comcast’s cable television subscription business and its own online video programming distribution service (i.e., Fancast XFinity/TV Everywhere). Comcast is likely to respond to this threat by withholding “must-have programming” from competing OVPDs; placing demands on unaffiliated programmers to restrict consumer access to content online as a condition of cable carriage along with similar practices that interfere with the free flow of competing online content. This conduct will constrict competition in the emerging online space and harm the diversity of information and Internet sources available to the public.”

The letter also states that the merger could negatively affect competition amongst cable TV programmers, cable TV costs and labor relations.

Comcast, on the other hand, argued in its blog post today the new company wouldn’t actually be that big, especially compared to previous mergers:

“Comcast is not dominant in any of the businesses it operates in -– in multichannel video distribution, we’re less than 25% of the national market; in broadband Internet, we’re about 20% of the national market.”

That may be true on a national level, but the picture is very different in some local markets, according to Free Press President and CEO Josh Silver, who said today that there are in fact twelve markets in which Comcast is the dominant cable and Internet provider and where at the same time NBC owns a local station. “It would consolidate far too much media power in one company,” he said.

Picture of Comcast Center courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Burkett.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: A Closer Look at Comcast’s NBC Universal Acquisition (subscription required)