* NBC bid makes sense for Comcast - News Corp's Carey
* Deal to have significant regulatory baggage - Carey
* Regulators not likely to ask for asset sale - Carey
* Deal will cause "enormous debate" - Liberty's Maffei
(Adds Liberty Media CEO)
By Yinka Adegoke
NEW YORK, Nov 12 Executives from two top media
companies on Thursday cautioned that Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O)
could face serious antitrust questions if it were to acquire
control of NBC Universal.
News Corp (NWSA.O) President Chase Carey and Liberty Media
Chief Executive Greg Maffei, in separate presentations at a
conference, both said such a deal could prove a winner for
Comcast, but also raised concerns about regulatory hurdles.
Comcast and General Electric Co (GE.N) are in talks to on
a deal that would give the cable operator a 51 percent stake in
a $30 billion NBC Universal joint venture, according to people
familiar with the discussions. Comcast would contribute its
cable networks and $4 billion to $6 billion in cash.
Carey, the No. 2 executive at News Corp and a media
industry veteran, said he would be "stunned" if such a deal did
not encounter "fairly significant regulatory baggage." News
Corp itself is said to have previously looked at NBC Universal
but has since backed off, according to media reports.
Speaking at the Money & Media Conference in New York, Carey
said a deal for NBC Universal would make sense for Comcast. He
also said it was unlikely Comcast would be asked to sell any
assets as a condition for approval.
Instead, he said regulators would likely focus on making
certain that Comcast ensures "fair access" for rivals to the
content it controls as well as fair access to the largest
distribution network in the United States.
If Comcast, the No. 1 U.S cable operator, struck a deal for
NBC Universal, it would gain control over a broadcast network
as well as cable networks, a studio and local TV stations.
Given the size and reach of the combination, the U.S.
Federal Communications Commission as well as antitrust
regulators and possibly Congress would likely review the deal.
Carey himself is no stranger to antitrust reviews. He
previously held top positions at U.S. satellite TV operator
DirecTV Group Inc DTV.O, in which News Corp purchased a
controlling interest in 2003, following a regulatory review.
Carey said other issues that might come up include Net
neutrality, which advocates push to ensure that Internet
service providers do not discriminate or favor any content
moving over their networks.
Comcast is also the largest residential Internet service
provider in the United States.
Liberty CEO Maffei, speaking later at the same conference,
also said a Comcast-NBC deal could struggle through the
"I suspect there will be enormous debate about what
restrictions to put on Comcast," he said.
He added that the the regulatory process could become
something of a "circus" with competing interests all demanding
concessions from the cable company.
Maffei confirmed that his company and News Corp had looked
at NBC Universal but that Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts
had been ahead of others holding discussions with NBC Universal
parent GE since spring.
He said it could still be a "very good deal" for Comcast.
Investors and analysts have expressed concern that the
combination of Comcast and NBC Universal could lead to
regulators making demands that could hurt the value of having
content and distribution under one roof [ID:nN11337723].
(Editing by Paul Thomasch, Gerald E. McCormick and Steve