Comcast/TWC Merger: Univision Says Merger Could Be 'Bad for Hispanic Audiences'
The proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable (the nation's second-largest cable provider) by Comcast (the first) has attracted criticism and consternation from media advocates, as well as some companies like Netflix and Charter. As of this week, you can now add Latino television giant Univision to the list of companies that are concerned about the merger.
Chief executive of Univision Randy Falco told media analysts during an earnings call on Monday that the proposed $45 billion deal was a "cause for concern," and could be "bad for Hispanic audiences."
Falco didn't exactly come out against the Comcast/TWC merger the way Netflix did in its recent letter to shareholders or Charter did before that. But he did express a lot of worry over the possible mega-merger, especially over what it could mean for Univision's audience.
"We are hoping at the very least there is that scrutiny and potentially much tougher restrictions added to the existing consent decree [prompted by a 2011 deal] that will protect Comcast competitors such as Univision who are serving minority communities in particular," said Falco, according to Reuters.
Falco mentioned that a central concern of his was that a bigger Comcast, which already owns the NBCUniversal entertainment company (which owns Telemundo), might be reluctant to carry networks like Univision that the cable giant didn't own. He cited as an example Comcast's unwillingness to distribute Univision's sports network, Univision Deportes, while other major providers like TWC did.
Falco: Comcast/TWC Would Dominate Latino Markets
A larger Comcast would only be more empowered to exclude content, and Falco pointed out that for nearly all U.S. Hispanics, there would be little choice left after the merger. "You've already heard that the new Comcast will be the dominant cable and high-speed broadband provider in markets with 30 percent of all U.S. cable households," Falco said, according to CNN's media analyst Brian Stelter.
"What you may not know is that the new Comcast will serve markets with 91 percent of all Hispanic households and be the top TV distributor in 19 out of the top 20 Hispanic markets. That gives this new company staggering influence over Hispanic consumers," he continued.
Comcast's demonstrated unwillingness to carry Univision's content would leave the majority of Latinos in the U.S. lacking some important TV content. As Falco said, "Either Comcast doesn't understand that soccer is a passion point for Hispanics or they don't support competitors who have competing services. My fear is that the latter is the case and this type of anti-competitive conduct would continue."
Comcast responded to Falco's strong consternation with a statement saying it "has had an extraordinary, long-standing commitment to Hispanic programming and through the transaction with Time Warner Cable, we are committed to bringing high-quality Hispanic content to millions of additional Americans."
Comcast added, "This transaction will not lead to any reduction in competition or consumer choice in any market because Comcast and Time Warner Cable serve separate and distinct geographic areas. We will not have undue power in negotiating with programming networks, and we have a great record of working with programmers from the largest to the smallest."
Univision is one of the first major media companies that competes with Comcast's own channels to express concerns about the merger. Nearly all have remained silent, despite what skepticism they may have privately.
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