Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s decision to back the $30-billion merger of NBC Universal Inc. and Comcast Corp., saying the conditions for the proposed union “fully remedied” DOJ concerns about unfair competition.
Varney said in a conference call with reporters that the settlement reached by the DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission with Comcast and NBC Universal would protect competition in the media industry, especially nascent competition from online video distributors. Some commentators reacted with skepticism to the deal.
But Varney noted that a provision in the settlement would stymie Comcast’s power to undercut Hulu, which streams NBC shows for free online.
The settlement would require Comcast to give up its management rights to the online video provider. But the agreement would not require Comcast to give up NBC Universal’s 30 percent interest in Hulu.
“We had competitive concerns about this transaction. We were willing to go to court to block the transaction,” Varney said. “However, when parties come forth and say, ‘Look we are willing to undertake remedies that address your concerns,’ I think we achieve a better result for consumers and a better result for the marketplace if those conditions truly remedy our concerns.”
The U.S. District Court in D.C. must still approve the settlement before it can go into effect. The court can rule on the agreement in March, after a 60-day public comment period has ended.