See Reaction to Comcast | Time Warner Cable Merger Plan

Author: Kevin Taglang
Coverage Type: reporting

Comcast announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable. How’s that playing?

Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) -- chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights -- said they will hold a hearing on the proposed merger. “This proposed merger could have a significant impact on the cable industry and affect consumers across the country,” Chairman Klobuchar said, adding that she will “carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”

John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge, said, "Comcast cannot be allowed to purchase Time Warner Cable. Antitrust authorities and the FCC must stop it. If Comcast takes over Time Warner Cable, it would wield unprecedented gatekeeper power in several important markets. It is already the nation's largest ISP, the nation's largest video provider, and one of the nation's largest home phone providers. It also controls a movie studio, broadcast network, and many popular cable channels. An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content. By raising the costs of its rivals and business partners, an enlarged Comcast would raise costs for consumers, who ultimately pay the bills. It would be able to keep others from innovating, while facing little pressure to improve its own service. New equipment, new services, and new content would have to meet with its approval to stand any chance of succeeding. What's more, it is simply dangerous for a large proportion of our nation's critical communications infrastructure to be in the hands of just one provider.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said, “In an already uncompetitive market with high prices that keep going up and up, a merger of the two biggest cable companies should be unthinkable. This deal would be a disaster for consumers and must be stopped. This deal would give Comcast control of more than a third of the U.S. pay-TV market and more than half of the U.S. triple-play market for video, voice and Internet service. Comcast will have unprecedented market power over consumers and an unprecedented ability to exert its influence over any channels or businesses that want to reach Comcast's customers. No one woke up this morning wishing their cable company was bigger or had more control over what they could watch or download. But that — along with higher bills — is the reality they'll face tomorrow unless the Department of Justice and the FCC do their jobs and block this merger. Stopping this kind of deal is exactly why we have antitrust laws. Americans already hate dealing with the cable guy — and both these giant companies regularly rank among the worst of the worst in consumer surveys. But this deal would be the cable guy on steroids — pumped up, unstoppable and grasping for your wallet."

Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative said, “This is so over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest. The $45 billion dollar deal would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service.”

“Musicians and other media-makers require affordable, high-quality internet service for everything from selling music and merchandise to booking tours to staying in touch with fans. Our livelihoods depend on being able to reach audiences in the ways that make the most sense for us,” said Future of Music Coalition Interim Executive Director Casey Rae. “Comcast’s proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable would give one company incredible influence over how music and other media is accessed and under what conditions. We all know what it’s like to be annoyed at our Internet provider for bad service, even as we’re paying increasingly outrageous prices to connect. This is particularly hard on artists who need to make every dollar count. Then there’s the ever-present danger of a huge corporation like Comcast -- which already owns a major content company -- disadvantaging competition or locking creators into unfair economic structures. The future of music must not be stymied by caps on innovation, high consumer prices and a lack of competition. This merger is a bum note for musicians and other media-makers.”

Sarah Morris, Senior Policy Counsel for the Open Technology Institute at New America, said, "[T]merger represents an unprecedented move to consolidate market power even further. A Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger will mean fewer competitive incentives to invest in network infrastructure, and will likely lead to higher prices and less innovation. We’ve seen these trends already, and dramatic increases in market power will only exacerbate them.... The federal agencies reviewing this merger must not ignore the public interest harms this merger would cause. The only way to ensure that the best interests of the general public are protected is to stop this merger in its tracks."

“Where we’re really concerned is in the ability for a much bigger Comcast to give even more preferential treatment to the content and networks it owns through its purchase of NBC Universal,” said Stephanie Chen, telecommunications policy director at The Greenlining Institute. “This merger would make a tough situation even tougher for smaller content providers, especially minority-owned and -produced content.”

"Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is bad for everyone: content creators, programmers, suppliers, and consumers. As writers know all too well, media consolidation leads to already too powerful companies limiting competition. The WGAW will fight to stop this ill-conceived merger," said the Writers Guild of America, West.

Doug Brake, Telecom Policy Analyst for the Information Technology and Information Foundation, said, "knee-jerk, negative reactions to the merger by some 'advocates,' who often reflexively oppose any consolidation as bad for consumers, are misguided and distracting from the legitimate policy dialogue.... the economic benefits of the combined efficiencies and economies of scale will flow to consumers in the form of lower prices and/or higher quality service. Comcast expects to save about $1.5 billion in annual operating efficiencies through the deal. The combined company, which will have 30% of the pay TV market, will also be able to drive harder bargains with upstream content providers, resulting in savings that will be passed on to cable subscribers."

Salon’s Andrew Leonard penned a post titled “Comcast must be stopped.” New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose said the deal would create a “mega-empire in an industry that is already dominated by a few huge companies. For this reason alone -- to say nothing of how long you’d have to stay on hold on a combined Comcast-TWC customer service line -- the deal must be stopped,” he wrote.

The American Cable Association, a trade group that represents small and medium-sized cable operators, said it would be considering whether the deal would hurt consumers. “ACA has long acknowledged many problems in the pay-TV market, including the soaring cost of retransmission consent and sports networks and the record-setting number of broadcaster-imposed TV signal blackouts,” CEO Matthew Polka said. “ACA will be looking closely to see whether this transaction makes matters worse for small and medium-sized cable operators and their customers.”



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