Thursday, March 11, 2010

Media Execs Weigh In On Comcast-NBCU

By Claire Atkinson

Panelists at media summit ask: What will the affect be on indie producers?

A variety of media executives delivered their views, positive and negative, on the Comcast NBC Universal get together at the Bloomberg Businessweek media summit Wednesday, March 10.

Reveille managing partner, Howard T. Owens, wondered what the impact of the deal on the independent production community might be, once complete. "The sharp stick is the fact that there are no more indies... If you're Reveille and you cant control any kind of upside if you have the next Survivor, ultimately that would be a disincentive for good new ideas." Reveille produces The Office and The Biggest Loser for NBC.

Separately, Standard & Poor equity analyst, Tuna Amobi, wondered why the supposed synergies frequently touted as a benefit of such mega mergers, weren't articulated. Speaking at the Summit in New York, Amobi said: "What we've been telling our clients is do not invest in Comcast simply because you expect it to throw off synergies." Amobi compared the deal to Livenation/Ticketmaster merger where the legal conditions of the deal were expected to cost millions of dollars. "I would argue that Comcast and NBC conditions will be much harsher, expect stringent conditions about program access and net neutrality."

Discovery's president of digital media and corporate development, Bruce Campbell spoke up in favor of the deal saying: "If you look at the structure, Comcast is already in the content business. They were able to get a pretty good deal."

The panelists also touched on the subject of how Apple is transforming the media business and what monies might flow from new technologies, Owens commented: "I feel like The Office is the most downloaded TV show in history and the money isn't that great. Pricing seems a little unfair." Pricing is a big topic of conversation between big media companies and Apple with content producers eager to move Apple towards more variable pricing.

Speaking to B&C after the event, Kevin Conroy, President of Univision Interactive Media, said Univision is talking to Apple about making its shows available on iTunes. Conroy said he thinks the company's variety shows would be most appropriate for mobile platforms. Speaking as part of the panel, he said: "There really hasn't been that much experimentation around pricing. If the technology player was in fact more a platform and creators and consumers could engage and experiment with prices that would be a far more engaging robust model."

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