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NBC must withdraw from Hulu as Comcast deal approved

The merger between cable company Comcast and Hollywood studio and broadcast network NBC Universal has been approved by US regulators, but the conditions imposed upon the newly-created media giant include a restriction on holding a management position in successful online video service Hulu.

The deal was approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department and is set to close by the end of January. Comcast has acquired a 51% stake in the company from conglomerate GE, which will now own 49%. It marks the first time a cable company has owned a major broadcast network in the US and will also create an international media giant as the two companies merge their global pay TV channels.

 “This is a proud and exciting day for Comcast. The NBC Universal joint venture will be well positioned to compete, innovate and bring new choices to consumers,” said Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive of Comcast.

Conditions on the newly merged organisation include the loss of its management position in Hulu. The new company will, however, retain its ownership stake in the company, which it set up with News Corp and Disney, and will continue to provide programming to the service.

“Without such a remedy, Comcast could, through its seats on Hulu’s board of directors, interfere with the management of Hulu, and, in particular, the development of products that compete with Comcast’s video service,” the Justice Department noted. The conditions will last for seven years.

The two companies will also merge their US and international cable networks. Channels including E!, The Style Network and The Golf Channel will be merged into the joint venture alongside Bravo, Spanish-language network Telemundo Internacional, Universal, SyFy, 13th Street, Diva Universal and Studio Universal.  Steve Burke will become chief executive officer of NBC Universal at the official close of the transaction.