NBC: Viv U still on track

Peacock expects merger to close in the first half of 2004

NBC said a second request for information by U.S. antitrust regulators about its planned purchase of Vivendi Universal’s U.S. entertainment assets is part of a “normal” review process.

NBC was responding to an article in USA Today on Wednesday that said the Federal Trade Commission is concerned the combined company may boost fees paid by cable operators to license programming. Some NBC managers think they may be able to raise the fees cable operators pay, the paper said, citing people it didn’t name.

“We are in the middle of a normal regulatory review process,” NBC spokeswoman Hilary Smith said in an email. “A second request for information is a standard part of that practice.” New York-based NBC still expects the merger to close in the first half of 2004, Smith said.

Antitrust enforcers fear higher fees paid by cable operators may be passed on to consumers, the newspaper said.

An FTC spokesman declined comment.

NBC Universal will become the world’s seventh-biggest media and entertainment company once the acquisition is completed.

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