Kohl Wants Hulu Divestiture as Part of Any Comcast/NBCU Deal

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Kohl Wants Hulu Divestiture as Part of Any Comcast/NBCU Deal
Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, is calling for a raft of strong conditions on any Comcast/NBCU deal, including the divestiture of its stake in online video site Hulu within a year and the application of program access rules to online video.

That came in a letter from Kohl to the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski in which Kohl said the proposed joint venture "has the potential for serious anticompetitive and anti-consumer effects in at least three respects."

Those are 1) ability of competitors to access NBC broadcast and cable content, 2) the ability of "independent programmers" and diverse voices to get a platform on the combined company, and 3) the impact on online distribution.

Kohl said that the FCC should look carefully at online content to insure the deal does nothing to "stifle, block or retard" the emergence of that outlet.

Other conditions include nondiscriminatory access to any programming in which Comcast has a financial interest, binding arbirtration over any retransmission consent disputes and firewalls between the two companies to prevent sharing pricing or contract terms. There are also requirements that Comcast not be allowed to favor its own content, allowing competitors access to online distribution of content from any programming or channel that Comcast/NBCU have an interest in, that NBC content on the net not be tied to a cable subscription, that Comcast not be allowed to migrate NBC broadcast net content to cable for at least 10 years and that Comcast not discriminate or degrade any Internet distribution of programming that competes with Comcast or TV Everywhere.

Kohl's subcommittee held a hearing on the deal Feb. 4 and said he has since been investigating its impact on the marketplace.

The FCC is preparing on June 3 to re-start its informal 180-day shot clock on the deal, which it hopes to have finished vetting by the end of the year. The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation.