Foes of Comcast-NBCU deal keep the heat on
A coalition of competitors, consumers, and even occasional allies of Comcast and NBC Universal continue to exert pressure on federal regulators to impose conditions on the two to prevent them from exercising undue market power should their proposed merger go through.
The group sent letters to members of Congress and directly to President Barack Obama stating: “The merged giant would have strong incentives to discriminate against other multichannel video providers in granting access to its wealth of programming, including all of its broadcast stations and ‘must-have’ national and regional networks that air live or same-day sporting events, as well as the market power to enforce anticompetitive ‘bundling.’”
The signatories included the American Cable Association, along with the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association (DirecTV and Dish Network), the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (representing small telephone companies), Free Press, Consumers Union and Common Cause.
The ACA said it wants conditions on the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction “to ensure that the media giant can't inflict anticompetitive harms on small cable operators or injure consumers by imposing business models that both drive up prices and require the purchase of unwanted content available on cable and the Internet.”
"By taking control of NBCU, Comcast would become the country's most powerful online and traditional programming company with every incentive to raise prices, restrict choice and force operators to sell consumers content that they don't want in order to continue viewing programs they sincerely desire. In its ads, Comcast and NBCU ask people to 'Dream Big,' but small cable operators know this deal will be a nightmare for its millions of customers without appropriate conditions," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said.
Several ACA members happened to file a complaint with the FCC recently that Comcast is already exploiting its market power with its regional sports networks in an anti-competitive fashion.
The $30 billion deal between Comcast and NBCU requires approval of the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Department of Justice in a review that could take up to a year. The Senate Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee recently announced plans to hold a hearing in late January or early February.