Author Topic: Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight  (Read 391 times)

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Offline mystery-ak

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February 13, 2014, 12:09 pm
Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight

By Kate Tummarello

Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable in a $45.2 billion deal that would combine the nation’s biggest cable companies, setting up a lengthy and contentious antitrust review in Washington.

The two companies said the deal would benefit consumers and increase competition, but critics immediately warned it would set up Comcast— which also owns NBC Universal — as too dominant a force in communications.

The deal would bring Comcast’s total number of subscribers to 30 million, with the company gaining 8 million subscribers from Time Warner. But as a part of the deal, Comcast also agreed to sell off systems that serve 3 million subscribers.

Top antitrust lawmakers vowed to examine the acquisition closely.

In a statement, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce's Subcommittee on Antitrust — 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,” Klobuchar said, adding that she will “carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and other executives during a conference call on Thursday voiced optimism the merger would survive scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice.

Roberts said there’s nothing different between the merger and “lots of cable transactions” that have been approved by regulators.

As those agencies consider the deal, “we’ll be as cooperative and expeditious as we can be," he said.

Public interest groups, however, quickly blasted the deal, arguing the FCC should block it to prevent Comcast from being able to dictate terms to an array of industries, from Hollywood to Internet companies and other communications networks.

“Comcast cannot be allowed to purchase Time Warner Cable. Antitrust authorities and the FCC must stop it,” John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

Free Press CEO Craig Aaron said the acquisition “would be a disaster for consumers and must be stopped,” as it “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 said the deal would not leave it with 30 percent of the pay-television market, and also argued it would not reduce competition in the cable Internet market.

“We have no business overlap, there’s no reduction in competition,” Roberts said of the two companies.

He also said the acquisition “will drive us to have faster innovation in a highly competitive and dynamically changing market.”

Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus said the deal would make the cable company more able to compete against its non-cable competitors, like national phone companies AT&T and Verizon.

“This combination actually has the potential to increase competition in the broadband space … to be able to compete against other national competitors,” he said.

“We’re not removing a competitor for any consumer. We’re not removing a choice from any consumer.”

During last month’s FCC open meeting, Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to comment on specific hypothetical mergers between cable companies but said his agency will “work closely” with the Justice Department and “will look at the facts that are presented” when a deal comes up.

Roberts said the commitments Comcast made to net neutrality as part of the 2011 deal to buy NBC Universal would extend to Time Warner.

As part of the NBC purchase, Comcast said it would not do anything to disadvantage competitors, such as Netflix, that rely on Comcast’s broadband Internet services to deliver their programs to people’s computers and televisions.

The FCC’s net neutrality rules were struck down by a federal court earlier this year, but Roberts said the commitments Comcast made “will apply day one.”

Roberts also touted a “critical” Comcast program that offers low cost Internet plans with the goal of increasing Internet adoption throughout the country, a goal it shares with the FCC.

“We’re looking forward to bringing that to all the Time Warner markets,” he said.

Bergmayer, however, said the administration should ignore the consequences of the deal that would make progress on the FCC’s goals of net neutrality and broadband adoption. He charged that was an attempt by Comcast “to try to sugar coat [the deal] with a grab bag of conditions.”

— This story was posted at 9:25 a.m. and was updated at 12:09 p.m.

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Offline mystery-ak

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Re: Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2014, 04:58:50 PM »

February 13, 2014, 01:20 pm
Comcast, Time Warner execs have been big Obama supporters

By Justin Sink

Executives at Comcast and Time Warner, which on Thursday announced a $45.2 billion merger that will set off an antitrust fight in Washington, have showered President Obama and congressional Democrats with campaign contributions.

Employees and the associated political action committees of both media giants donated heavily to the president and his party ahead of the 2012 elections, according to Federal Election Commission records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and appear on pace to do so again in 2014.

At Comcast, that effort was led by the top.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has donated $76,000 to Democrats since 2006, compared to $13,500 in contributions to Republicans. He’s golfed with Obama on Martha’s Vineyard, served on the president’s Jobs Council, and appeared at a number of White House meetings on business and technology.

But his fundraising efforts were dwarfed by head Comcast lobbyist David Cohen, a Democratic bundler who raised $1.44 million for the president’s reelection campaign in 2011 and 2012, and $2.22 million since 2007, according to internal documents obtained by the New York Times.

In 2011, Cohen hosted a DNC fundraiser attended by Obama at his home in Philadelphia. During the event, the president thanked him and his wife for “just being such great friends for so many years.”

Throughout the 2012 cycle, Comcast employees donated more than $465,000 to the Democratic National Committee, more than $300,000 to the president’s reelection campaign, and $178,050 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

By contrast, Comcast employees donated just over $114,000 to the Republican National Committee, $93,000 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and $103,000 to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

This cycle, Comcast employees and the company's political action committee have pledged $200,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association — more than twice than to any other campaign committee or candidate. The cable giant donated just over $65,000 to both the NRCC and DNC, while House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) netted nearly $59,000 in contributions and the DSCC banked just under $51,000.

Time Warner CEO Robert Marcus has only held his job for 44 days, but also has a political contribution record that favors Democrats.

Since 2010, Marcus has donated $8,500 to nine Democratic candidates, including Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Kristen Gillibrand (N.Y.), as well as Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Steve Israel (N.Y.). His lone Republican donation, according to, was to Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.).

Donations from the New York company’s employees also heavily favored Democrats in 2012. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company’s top seven donations were all to Democratic committees, candidates, or super-PACs. 

That included more than $650,000 to the DNC, $442,000 for Obama’s presidential campaign, nearly $150,000 for the DCCC, $56,000 for the DSCC and $205,000 for political action committees supporting Democratic candidates. By contrast, Time Warner employees gave just $28,100 to Mitt Romney.

Since then, Time Warner employees have continued to favor Democrats. The top five recipients of Time Warner political dollars since the presidential election have been the Democratic Governors’ Association, the DNC, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the DCCC, and Alison Lundergran Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The heavy donations to Democratic candidates could raise eyebrows as the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division weighs whether to approve the $42.5 billion merger.

The combined company would provide television for nearly 30 percent of the market, and regulators will evaluate whether the combination risks impairing competition.

In a conference call on Thursday, Roberts said that since the cable companies don’t currently service the same markets, they would not hurt competition by merging.

The acquisition “creates literally a world class tech and media company” that can better service customers, Roberts said during a press call Thursday. “We do believe this transaction will bring pro-consumer benefits.”

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Offline mystery-ak

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Re: Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2014, 04:59:37 PM »

February 13, 2014, 03:42 pm
Franken 'concerned' about Comcast deal

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) urged federal regulators Thursday to critically look at Comcast's proposed $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable.

The deal would join the nation's biggest two cable companies, and Franken said he was worried it would consolidate too much power with Comcast.

“I have serious reservations about this proposed transaction, which would consolidate the largest and second largest cable providers in America,” Franken wrote in a letter to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

“I urge you to act quickly and decisively to ensure that consumers are not exposed to increased cable prices and decreased quality of service as a result of this transaction,” Franken said.

The senator's views are particularly interesting because a big issue in the merger is likely to be questions about whether Comcast will have too much influence with content providers.

Franken is a former television writer who wrote and performed on "Saturday Night Live."

Franken also opposed Comcast's acquisition of NBC-Universal, saying it was bad for consumers.

“Cable rates have risen significantly over the last two decades, and my constituents express frustration at being squeezed by unacceptably high cable bills every month,” Franken wrote. “Many consumers would switch cable providers if only they had a viable option to do so. … I am concerned that Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner would only make things worse for consumers.”

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Offline Rapunzel

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Re: Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2014, 05:05:52 PM »
Lack of competition is a very bad thing... they will be able to force out smaller networks like The Blaze... and continue with their indoctrination path.
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves.” G Washington July 2, 1776

Offline Rapunzel

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Re: Comcast to buy Time Warner in $45.2B deal, setting up antitrust fight
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2014, 09:43:32 PM »
Comcast to Buy Time Warner Cable - Why It Matters
by John Nolte 13 Feb 2014, 5:33 AM PDT 3

Comcast has made an official bid to purchase Time Warner Cable for $159 per share, or $45 billion. THR reports that the merger would mean that this one company would now "command three-quarters of the market" and that the motive behind the deal is to "give companies increased leverage in carriage talks with TV network operators, which have in recent years become more contentious."

Time Warner Cable has accepted the offer. It is now just up to the federal government to approve -- or at least not get in the way of -- the deal. The Obama administration allowed Comcast to purchase NBC, which was a huge merger. And we know that Comcast's NBC/MSNBC news divisions have been major Obama cheerleaders. This is all in the merger's favor.

What to make of it….

It is hard to take sides when all you are dealing with are bad guys.

If Big Cable can push Big Entertainment around, it can get better pricing, which will allow Big Cable to better compete with Streaming providers such as Netflix. Big Cable might also be able to push back against Big Entertainment who currently force Big Cable to carry all those crappy, lower-rated cable channels.

Right now, for example, if a cable provider wants to carry a popular channel like an ESPN or the Discovery Channel they are forced to also carry the company's ESPN 2 through 35, or Discovery Science, Discovery Animals, and Discovery Oceans. I'm exaggerating for effect, but you get the idea.

That is another reason our cable bills are so high and so much left-wing crap is pumped into our homes.

This is also why cable providers are hemorrhaging customers -- customers who are unplugging cable entirely and moving to Streaming content. Which brings me to…

What concerns me is a Big Bundled Cable operator like Comcast-Time Warner (or whatever they intend to call themselves) using their clout to muscle Big Entertainment into not entering into licensing deals with Streaming providers -- which is probably something Big Entertainment would like to have an excuse to do.

Remember, Big Business doesn't fear government taxes or regulation In fact,  Big Business embraces burdensome taxes and regulations as a way to kill off what they truly fear: up-and-coming competitors. In that same vein, the existential threat to Big Cable and Big Entertainment (who right now squabble over little things like pricing but work together like Big Business and Big Government) is Streaming. Their mutual goal is to either co-opt Streaming into their wicked little cabal or marginalize it as much as possible. 

Big Cable needs Big Entertainment to survive. On the other hand, Big Entertainment knows Big Cable is a cash cow that allows them to avoid market forces like viewer ratings (carriage fees are the amount of money Big Cable pays to ratings-loser networks like CNN and MSNBC regardless of viewership. Based on ratings alone, it is unlikely either cable news network and dozens of other channels could survive).

There is a lot going on in this merger that, yes, matters to the pocketbook of the everyday American, but also to our culture. Only a handful of companies produce a vast majority of America's entertainment -- and they are not on our side.

Let's just hope Netflix remains pure to its mission of making tons of money by becoming as popular as humanly possible.

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves.” G Washington July 2, 1776

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