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Comcast and GE complete NBC deal

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's official. The new NBCUniversal is finally open for business.

Cable company Comcast and industrial conglomerate General Electric announced Saturday that their deal to merge Comcast's cable networks with GE's NBC Universal entertainment unit was complete.

The new joint venture, dubbed NBCUniversal, LLC, is 51% owned by Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500) and 49% owned by GE (GE, Fortune 500). Comcast will manage the company.

The complicated deal, which values NBCUniversal at $30 billion, was first announced in December 2009. Comcast will pay GE $6.5 billion in cash and also contribute some of its programming assets to the joint venture.

The merger combines Comcast's cable networks, such as E!, Versus and the Golf Channel with NBCUniversal's struggling NBC broadcast network, as well as popular cable networks USA, Bravo, MSNBC and The Weather Channel. NBCUniversal also owns the Universal Studios film and theme park businesses.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice approved the deal earlier this month.

In a statement, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the merger creates "the ideal entertainment and distribution company." GE CEO Jeff Immelt added that the deal "allows GE to continue sharing in NBCU's growth while also providing significant cash to invest in our high-technology infrastructure businesses."

Comcast has long sought ways to bulk up even more in the entertainment business. It launched an unsuccessful hostile takeover bid for Walt Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) in 2004.

For GE, the move to trim its stake in NBC ends a long period of frustration for GE shareholders who did not believe that a ratings-challenged big media company fit in strategically with the company's energy infrastructure, finance and healthcare businesses.

And although the merger was approved by federal regulators, some consumer and media watchdog groups are still upset, namely because Comcast is already the nation's largest provider of cable television services.

"By controlling both information and the ways people access that information -- by cable, broadcast and the Internet -- Comcast-NBC can and will block competition, stifle innovation and silence independent, opposing viewpoints," said Josh Silver, president of nonprofit organization Free Press in a statement Saturday.

The one commissioner of the FCC who voted against the deal, Michael Copps, seemed to share those concerns.

"At the end of the day, the public interest requires more -- much more -- than it is receiving," Copps said in a statement earlier this month.

Still, the FCC and Justice Department did attach several conditions to the merger.

Comcast agreed to expand local news coverage, add more programs for Spanish-speaking viewers and offer Internet access to schools and libraries.

Comcast also said that NBCUniversal would no longer have a management role in Hulu, the online video site co-owned by News Corp (NWSA)., Disney and NBCUniversal. Comcast will continue to have a financial stake in Hulu, however.

CNN's Kristen Hamill contributed to this report. To top of page

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