Comcast Corp. (CMCSA: 17.7625 -0.0575 -0.32%), the largest U.S. cable MSO (Multiple System Operator), is all set to emerge as the world leader in entertainment and media through the acquisition of a controlling 51% stake in NBC Universal, a joint venture with General Electric Co. (GE: 15.12 +0.04 +0.27%). However, competitors suspect that this $30 billion transaction will give Comcast the sole power to control not just how TV shows and movies are made, but how they are delivered to homes.
The NBC-Comcast deal is the first ever where a network and a cable company have joined forces. Through this deal, Comcast will be able to serve one-fourth of the U.S.’ pay-TV households, supported by a large content-creation empire. NBC Universal is the fourth largest U.S. media company enriched with a vast content library. This will prove to be beneficial for Comcast to expand its own video-on-demand opportunities.
Despite being the largest cable MSO in the U.S. Comcast faces severe competition from both telecom and satellite service providers. Verizon Communications Inc.’s (VZ: 28.8075 -0.1525 -0.53%) FiOS-TV and AT&T Inc.’s(T: 24.9001 -0.1499 -0.60%) U-verse TV product are likely to make the entertainment, information and communications market extremely competitive.
Among the satellite operators, Dish Network Corp. (DISH: 20.13 -0.13 -0.64%)and DirecTV (DTV: 36.155 +0.145 +0.40%) are still leading the show. Intra-industry competition among cable MSOs has also gained momentum. Competitors are anxious that this deal will drive down the prices paid by the cable companies to retransmit local programs and will conceivably restructure the local TV scenario.
At the end of the first quarter of 2010, Comcast had 16,329 million High-Speed Internet customers, 7,895 million Voice customers, 23,477 million Video customers and 18,843 million Digital Video customers.
Comcast faces intense competition from Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC: 53.77+0.14 +0.26%), Cablevision System (CVC: 24.17 -0.04 -0.17%), Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.
We believe Comcast is well-positioned to leverage its two-way network to offer more interactive, on-demand programming . The company continues to manage its business profitably, resulting in healthy revenues, operating cash flow, earnings per share and free cash flow generation. We currently maintain our Neutral recommendation on Comcast.