NBCU Expands Indie Producers’ Role in Bid to Ease Comcast Merger

Will increase opportunities for indie producers to network with executives from its channels, advertisers

Last Updated: July 12, 2010 @ 2:16 PM

Comcast and NBC Universal, moving to further ease some concerns about their planned $30 billion merger, are promising to create a formal process for evaluating independent producers' programs for TV, cable and the internet in a bid to win over the producers support.

The new evaluation process, which would be in place for four years, was announced Monday in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission as a joint filing with Comcast, NBCU and the Independent Film and Television Alliance.

IFTA had been among those questioning the deal and opposing it on Capitol Hill, fearing the merger's impact on independent producers. With this agreement, however, the group has dropped its opposition to the merger.

Under the agreement, NBCU would help independent producers network with potential advertisers on made-for-TV movies and create a new formalized process for evaluating content from producers who aren’t partly or fully owned by either NBCU or Comcast.

Each year, NBCU and Comcast would schedule a “development meeting” for independent producers, in which NBCU officials would lay out their needs for scripted and reality programming needs.

NBCU then would set up formal pitch meetings where creative executives from all NBCU entertainment networks would hear proposals from the independent producers recommended by the IFTA.

Within six months of the development meetings, NBC’s cable group has agreed to hear at least 15 pitches and its broadcast group at least 20 pitches.

NBCU’s Digitial Studio executives also may listen in on the pitches. NBCU’s cable networks also would hear telepic pitches.

In addition to providing independent producers more access to NBCU creative execs, Comcast and NBCU are offering another way to help them. NBCU would help them access  advertising executives who may be interested in full sponsorship of telepic projects. In addition, NBCU’s cable channels would listen to pitches for movies and miniseries from independents.

As part of the new program, NBCU and Comcast would provide some development money.

In a statement, IFTA president-CEO Jean Prewitt said the proposal “has the potential to create business opportunities for independent producers that have long wanted to produce for television in the United States again.”

“This agreement is the result of Congress’ focus on the potential vulnerabilities of independents in this merger and the need to ensure that there are real opportunities for independent producers on the Comcast/NBCU platforms,” Prewitt said. “While there are no guarantees attached to this agreement, we are hopeful it will provide solid opportunities for independent producers and NBCU/Comcast to work together in the future, and that other vertically integrated media companies will also embrace it.”