“Comcast can’t have it both ways. It can’t say that the existence of competition among distributors including Time Warner Cable was a reason to approve the NBC deal in 2010 and then turn around a few years later and say that the absence of competition with Time Warner Cable is a reason to approve this deal.”
— Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday about the proposed $45 billion Comcast purchase of Time Warner Cable. The nation’s two biggest cable companies say they’re not competitors because they have no customer overlap. But when Comcast was seeking the OK to buy NBC Universal a few years ago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts basically said his company competed with Time Warner and others when it came to negotiating for programming. Will a merger of the two companies, then, bring benefits such as more programming choices and lower prices for customers? Franken — and consumer advocates, as mentioned by the Merc’s Troy Wolverton this week — doesn’t think so: “I believe this deal will result in fewer choices, higher prices and even worse services for my constituents.” For its part, a Comcast spokesperson addressed Franken’s point with Ars Technica: “The market has changed and evolved significantly since 2010. There are new and robust competitors for programming and for viewers.” What’s next? The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice are the ones who have the power to block the proposed deal, but Congress is apparently being courted by a boatload of sweet-talking lobbyists on this issue.
Photo from Associated Press archives