Roberts: Comcast Could Play "Constructive" Role In Retrans

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As retransmission consent disputes between programmers and distributors have escalated in recent months, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said that the No.1 MSO's pending joint venture with NBC Universal could have a calming influence on what have been increasingly nasty negotiations.
Most recently, Cablevision Systems has been embroiled in an ever escalating retrans fight with Fox Networks over broadcast stations in New York and Philadelphia. Cablevision has called for binding arbitration to settle the matter, a move Fox has said is unnecessary.
Speaking to analysts on a conference call to discuss its third quarter results, Roberts didn't offer many specifics - the NBCU JV is still winding through the regulatory process. But he did acknowledge that the combined power of NBCU's broadcast and cable content assets and Comcast's No. 1 cable distribution could bring new ideas to the discussions.
"We have consistently said that with this new transaction we can hopefully play a constructive role in any thinking that has to take place around this space," Roberts said on the conference call. "This doesn't really change anything ... At this point, by being a cable operator and a broadcaster, perhaps we could foster ideas that will not have the consumer caught in the middle. We'll have to take it one step at a time. But we think there is an opportunity to play a constructive role."
Comcast announced the $30 billion NBCU joint venture in December, a deal that will give Comcast 51% control of the combined assets, including the NBC broadcast network and its owned and operated stations and cable networks like USA Network, Bravo and SyFy. Roberts said that the deal is on track to receive all of its necessary regulatory approvals and close by the end of the year.