Comcast Prepares To Get Even Larger With Sky, Fox Acquisitions
from the what-could-go-wrong dept
The cable company Americans love to hate is about to go supernova. Comcast acquired NBC Universal back in 2011, giving the company unprecedented control of not only the conduit into the house, but also the information and news being sent over those wires. And while regulators affixed some flimsy conditions to the deal, Comcast managed to ignore many of them, a major reason why regulators moved to block Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable a few years ago.
Because we’re unwilling to learn much of anything from history, Comcast’s now on the verge of growing significantly larger. The company recently unveiled a $30 billion plan to acquire European pay TV giant Sky. And this week, reports began to bubble up indicating that if regulators approve AT&T’s $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Comcast plans to make its own, massive $60 billion bid for the lion’s share of 21st Century Fox assets:
“Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts only plans to proceed with the bid if a federal judge allows AT&T Inc?s planned $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc to proceed, the sources said. The U.S. Department of Justice has opposed the AT&T-Time Warner deal over antitrust concerns, and a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon is expected in June.”
By all accounts, AT&T is likely to defeat the DOJ in court, meaning Comcast’s latest megamerger is likely to move forward. The bid is an effort to undermine a similar bid for Fox from Disney, a company Comcast has had an adversarial relationship with ever since executives rebuffed Comcast’s $54 billion Disney acquisition offer back in 2004. And while this deal wouldn’t include the Fox broadcast network or Fox News, it would include Fox’s 30% ownership stake in Hulu (Comcast also owns 30%), it would include numerous U.S. and global operations as well as the lion’s share of Fox’s film properties.
That said, there’s still cause for worry here. Comcast’s conditions affixed to its NBC Universal merger just expired, giving it newfound freedom to do things like meddle with Hulu’s competitive potential. Should Comcast also nab Disney’s 30% stake in Hulu, the company will have full authority to try and hamstring Hulu’s ability to disrupt Comcast’s own streaming or traditional video services, which is a shame given that Hulu just figured out that it should aspire to something greater than being a glorified ad for traditional cable TV.
Comcast’s explosive growth spurt comes as the company has not only successfully lobbied to kill net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, but is quietly securing a massive monopoly over broadband in many markets. At the same time, industry BFF Ajit Pai at the FCC is happily gutting decades-old media consolidation rules designed to protect smaller media outlets from exactly this type of rampant consolidation. For good measure, we’re also watching as lobbyists dismantle both the FCC’s and FTC’s ability to hold Comcast accountable when it engages in anti-competitive behavior.
This provides the cable giant with ample leeway to use its combined domination of both content and broadband to hamstring competitors in an absolute ocean of creative new ways. If you thought the country was having any real conversation about the possible anti-competitive implications of this perfect storm of consolidation, monopoly dysfunction, and dismantled government oversight of telecom monopolies, you’d be wrong.