What does Oprah Winfrey share with the proposed Comcast-NBC merger?

Posted by Mitchell - December 8, 2009 (entry 631)

We've discussed before on this website the hinted-at possibility that the broadcast media, hobbled by collapsed profits, may close up shop entirely, and those in America who watch TV would have to pay for it. We may have seen two bellwethers in the past month that suggest that hands have begun to abandon ship.

Omen Number One: Oprah. We won't comment on the abundant and fawning coverage of the end of Oprah Winfrey's daily television broadcast show or what she has and hasn't broadcast, but it could reasonably be interpreted, as some analysts already have, that Oprah is simply following the money in television, which as of late has been trending toward cable since there's more money there from regular cable fees. (That's not to say that gouging wars could arise as is seen in a recent spat betweenTime-Warner and NewsCorp.) Whether or not Oprah's lucrative success in broadcasting can translate to cable is another story, however.

Omen Number Two: The proposed Comcast buyout of NBC Universal from Vivendi and General Electric. Judging by their stock prices, neither Comcast nor NBCU's current parents are getting erections from the proposal, and some have openly asked why do it, particularly where in recent years there has been a trend of sorts of media deconcentration. Given the context of the expected end of broadcast television, it could be seen as a preferred maneuver by both parties. Comcast gets a ton of content to complement what they already have, and NBCU gets the biggest cable company in America as a mother hen. With NBC in fourth place in the ratings, Jay Leno taking a third of the network's weekly primetime lineup, and Comcast's historic antagonism to broadcast industry, Comcast could well make NBC just another cable channel, thereby starting a trend that would lead to a major historic shake-up.

But that's getting a bit ahead of the game. The proposed merger has a lot of opposition already, including on Capitol Hill, and might well collapse due to its massive proposed scope. Even if it does succeed, and there's no guarantee of that, more people could well see their media experiences be less-than-Comcastic.

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