The new NBC Universal would have an advantage over its content-owning rivals: a cable TV pipeline reaching nearly a quarter of U.S. homes. That not only would give it an edge when it launches new cable networks but also would provide a huge base of customers for pay-per-view programming, including movies from the Universal movie studio.
Comcast also is the nation's largest provider of Internet broadband service and third-largest telephone company -- valuable conduits for new media.
"This is the future of television," said Paul Levinson, a communications professor at Fordham University in New York. "The traditional broadcast networks served people well during the 20th century, but not any longer. People like getting shows whenever they want, and on whatever device they might have: a television, their computer or mobile phone."
Comcast, as owner of more programming, would be "ideally suited to do all of these things," Levinson said. "How much longer could NBC go it alone as more people want to watch their shows through the Internet or on their iPhones?"