FCC Pauses Both AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-Time Warner Mergers
Two big merger reviews have come to a screeching halt as the FCC announced that it was pausing its "shot clock" for both the AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-Time Warner Cable deals.
The FCC had previously self-imposed a 180-day deadline for scrutinizing the mergers, but in light of recent events, the commission said Wednesday that it is putting things on hold.
The hold cuts the $48.5 billion AT&T-DirecTV process off at day 76, while $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable proposal had already been put on the back burner at day 85 earlier in October "on the grounds that Comcast had not fully responded to to the Commission's Request for Information and Data," according to an FCC public notice. The deadline for public comments concerning the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger was also extended to October 29 from October 8.
The reason for the FCC's recent delay is the contracts between content providers and pay-TV services. Both mergers combine some of the largest media broadcasters, and many are worried that the deals cut will end up in skewed distribution.
Despite the holdup, however, the parties eager to join forces are confident in their cases.
"The Commission is working to hear the concerns of various parties. In the meantime, review of information and evidence already in the docket will continue," Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement via Reuters.
"We're confident in the FCC's rigorous procedures for keeping information confidential and we're ready to provide them with the information they have requested," he said in a statement.
It's not just federal regulators that are worried about the effects of consolidation, states are heavily weighing the deals as well. Two of the most influential states in the United States, New York and California, have formed independent review boards for the Comcast-Time Warner merger that will submit their own findings to the FCC. Much of the local concern revolves around the lack of incentive these big companies will have to improve broadband speeds and access if they have less worthy competitors. To that, Comcast has responded by pointing out that it doesn't operate in the same areas as Time Warner Cable (so what competition are you talking about?) and AT&T says it's proposal is nothing like Comcast's.
"This is not Comcast/Time Warner, this is not two cable companies getting together, this is not Sprint and T-Mobile," AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson told a House Judiciary Committee panel in June.
"We're putting (DirecTV's satellite) TV product with our broadband wireless product. ... There is not a content player per se in this transaction."
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