Thursday, December 03, 2009

Comcast, NBC & the Internet

The recent news that Comcast has purchased NBC from General Electric for $14 billion is a momentous event in the history of technology. As one of the few entities that owns the data pipelines that connect us to the web, Comcast has always exercised enormous influence on how the technological revolution that we’re in the midst of gets rolled out at the individual user level. Like me, many people obtain both internet access and cable TV from Comcast. While there might be some corporate synergy to that arrangement - the same wire that carries cable TV also carries computer data without any modification or additional expense to the company - there is also some natural competition. With so much video content now available via the internet, it would make a lot of sense from the consumer’s point of view, to make all of that content also available for viewing on a television. While that’s technologically feasible today, it also poses a threat to Comcast’s business model. If we could satisfy our viewing desires with internet projected onto a large screen, HD television, why would we need cable channels anymore? And it’s those cable channels, and the price we pay for them, that is Comcast’s core business. Comcast’s purchase of NBC just reinforces that business model by allowing Comcast to be both the content creator and the content deliverer with the middleman eliminated. Don’t misunderstand my point here. I’m don't consider Comcast to be the bad guy, just a company trying to maximize its profit. I write about this topic because it’s one of those things we just sort of take for granted that this is the way it has to be when that’s not actually the case.

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