DOJ Realizes That Comcast & Time Warner Are Trying To Prop Up Cable By Holding Back Hulu & Netflix
from the took-'em-long-enough dept
For quite some time now, we’ve been reporting on how the big television players were so upset that Hulu and Netflix were dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st century (even though they owned Hulu) that they were working on plans to kill off both services — or at least cripple them. Mostly, what this goes back to is the inevitable fact that the internet is going to subsume television. But, these days, there’s so much money in TV, thanks to the ability to be a gatekeeper, that all efforts are on holding back the internet for as long as is humanly possible. Want to know why HBO refuses to offer a standalone internet streaming option? It’s because of the monopolistic power of cable.
This has all been pretty obvious for years, but the Justice Department has finally begun investigating Comcast/NBC Universal and Time Warner Cable to see if any of their actions with regards to Netflix and Hulu trip the antitrust wire. In particular, they seem focused on whether or not tiered broadband plans are actually designed to keep people from using competing online services, and preventing people from cord cutting. For Comcast, the risk may be much higher. As part of the merger with NBC Universal, it made certain promises to the government concerning how it treats online services. If it’s not living up to those promises, it could mean trouble.
Unlike some other antitrust investigations, this is one where you can make a strong case that these companies are making life worse for consumers, by using their natural monopoly positions to keep prices artificially high. That said, I have little faith that the DOJ will get things right with the investigation. I think it’s likely that the natural economic pressure of cord cutting (which, despite denials from Hollywood and the cable industry, is very very real) is going to have much more of an impact on the eventual massive reconfiguration of the television market than any antitrust lawsuit.