Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable, Sparking Regulatory and Net Neutrality Concerns
Cable TV and internet giant Comcast has reached a deal to buy cable TV and internet giant Time Warner Cable for around $45.2 billion. The merger, which was announced Thursday but broke late Wednesday, would create a television and internet behemoth the likes of which we've never seen -- if it's approved.
When Bloomberg broke the news of the impending announcement of a merger deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, it was so surprising and seemed so unrealistic that it was hard to believe -- but Bloomberg had good sources, and soon other media outlets began fleshing out details on the deal.
Time Warner Cable, which has had rocky times recently, had been in the process of fending off a hostile takeover from smaller cable provider Charter Communications when the surprise deal with Comcast broke. Charter had offered Time Warner Cable about $132 per share, which the larger company had scoffed at, when Comcast swept in and offered more than the going share price -- at about $159 per share -- for the whole company.
The proposed merger would create not only a cable TV company with the maximum control over the market allowed by law, but a media and internet juggernaut that would own the internet services for 30 million subscribers in most major U.S. cities, as well as owning the entire NBCUniversal mass media business, which Comcast finished buying off of General Electric last year.
Basically, "ComWarnerCast," as some have come to call it, would own about a third of all U.S. mass media and internet delivery systems, as well as one of the largest television news and entertainment empires in America, which owns NBC and all of its affiliate cable channels, internet streaming service Hulu, and Telemundo (not to mention Universal pictures and its theme parks and resorts).
But that's if the deal is approved by regulators. The proposed merger will undoubtedly draw scrutiny from anti-trust regulators, as well as the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.
Part of Comcast's preemptive plan to satisfy concerns, the company has already said it plans to divest about 3 million subscribers from its potential 33 million total in order to keep its ownership of the entire American cable market below 30 percent, according to the Washington Post. Even without the three million customers, ComWarnerCast's empire would stretch across the continent, from Atlantic to Pacific, covering New York, southern California, Chicago, Texas, many Midwest states, and much of the east coast, with the exception of Washington D.C.
Besides monopoly and anti-competition concerns with the merger -- which ironically are incidental because Comcast and Time Warner Cable were already noncompeting, as each had monopolies in different markets -- the recent hobbling of the FCC's authority to enforce net neutrality has already created concerns and outrage among some consumer and internet rights groups, who see a single cable company owning the only cable broadband option for about a third of the country as a new, giant, threat to consumer and internet rights.
However, Comcast agreed to net neutrality conditions in 2011 as part of the FCC's conditions for beginning its takeover of NBCUniversal, and that agreement lasts until 2018. After 2018, the giant ComWarnerCast -- which would have incentive to engage in discrimination against competitors, since it owns a huge media content industry already -- will be set loose. Unless the FCC acts readjust its rules.
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!