Comcast must share TV shows, movies

LOS ANGELES — Comcast was set on Friday to complete its takeover of NBC Universal, but regulators imposed conditions that guarantee a continued supply of programming to competitors.

The takeover gives Comcast 51 percent control of NBC Universal, which owns fourth-ranked NBC, Universal Pictures' movie studio and theme parks, and cable channels such as Bravo, E! and USA.

The combination had raised fears that Comcast might use its control of NBC Universal to favor its 23 million cable and 17 million Internet customers.

To counter that, the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission imposed conditions that prevent Comcast from keeping to itself NBC Universal's popular shows such as "The Office" and movies including "Despicable Me" for the next several years.

NBC's "30 Rock" on Thursday night spoofed Comcast's impending takeover from General Electric. As a clock bell sounded, a neon "GE" atop an office building fizzled out and was replaced by a "K" inside a swoosh resembling Comcast's logo.

"Wow, out with GE, in with Kabletown," said Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon. "Seems like one of us should sing 'The Circle Game' right now."

Conditions imposed on Comcast were serious, though.

Regulators forced Comcast to make the full suite of NBC Universal content available as a single package to online competitors on terms comparable to those reached with more established rivals such as Dish Network Corp. and DirecTV.

NBC Universal is also expected to match new deals for smaller chunks of programming between other media firms and online video providers if it has comparable programming on hand. As an example, NBC Universal might have to make the Bravo channel's "The Real Housewives of New York City" available to Netflix if Viacom cuts a similar deal for "Jersey Shore."

The company also had to give up the decision-making power associated with its 32 percent share of Hulu, the online video service it co-owns with Disney, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners. Hulu is one of the services that make viewing "30 Rock" possible online.