The top executives of Comcast and NBC Universal (NBCU) defended their companies’ merger during a long day of questioning on Capitol Hill. House and Senate lawmakers conducted separate back-to-back hearings last Thursday on the effects of the proposed transaction on consumers, program distributors, independent networks, and the emerging Internet video service market. The first hearing of the day took place before the House Communications Subcommittee, where House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) predicted that the union of Comcast and NBCU will “trigger dramatic changes in the way consumers access video programming, in the way independent programmers distribute their works, and also in the way all video distributors compete for customers.” Although NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker argued that the deal would enable NBCU to compete better “in the new media world,” several House panel members voiced concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on access to online video programming. As subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) questioned whether over-the-air programs currently made available for free online viewing on the NBC website would be migrated to TV Everywhere—a platform through which online programs are offered free of charge to Comcast cable subscribers—Comcast CEO Brian Roberts replied that the merged entity would not place NBC content exclusively on TV Everywhere, as he assured Boucher that Comcast deems video over the Internet as “a friend, not a foe.” Similar concerns were raised later in the day during a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing, where subcommittee chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) warned that the transaction could restrict growth of the online video services market and also make it more difficult for independent programmers to obtain rights to carriage on Comcast cable systems. When asked by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) to clarify the merger partners’ voluntary commitments to the FCC on program access, Roberts said the merged entity would be “comfortable” in making the program access rules binding. Meanwhile, key Republicans on the House Communications Subcommittee cast doubt on claims that the transaction would jeopardize competition in the media and entertainment industries. As ranking subcommittee member Cliff Stearns (R-FL) observed that Comcast and NBCU don’t compete “in most segments of the market,” ranking House Commerce Committee member Joe Barton (R-TX) asserted: “there do seem to be some synergies for the two companies coming together.”