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.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 6:15am

    In a few years: "Government decides to split Ubercast after millions of violations of consumer protections and after finding out the rest of the world is at least a decade ahead in terms of connective developments."

    Rinse. Repeat a few decades down the road.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 6:54am

    State Actor

    Comcast meets all of the requirements for being a State Actor due to the government free reign of their network in return for monopoly status.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 7:00am

    A few years back a Brazilian finalist elitists attempted to acquire most of the world's bear breweries.

    First came the acquisitions. Then came the consolidation with one brand after the other being eliminated.

    Then came the micro brewery craze as the people could not stand the MBAed crap bear being produced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      things have to get worse before people wake up enough to "want" to help make it better.

      This is why a free market is necessary, but the pro regulation folks are not able to understand that. Even now, with free-market more than destroyed they continue to blame it for their woes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 9:17am

        Re: Re:

        I agree that things will still need to get worse before it gets better. But being completely anti regulation can be far worse. Just look at China's pollution issue or the pollution we had in the 60s-70s. Besides things like NN wouldn't affect a small ISP. The equipment to manipulate data that would violate NN is expensive when dealing with 1,000s of customers and gigabytes of information. Can't even image it on a scale with millions of customers. There are other regulations that should be focused on that prevents startups and protect big business.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 9:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          While I am definitely not pro-regulation, it does not mean that I am "completely anti regulation" either.

          While free-market is the ideal, there are obviously going to be certain regulations that will be handy in helping keep it that way. Right now we have totally destroyed the free-market so that not even a company with the financial means like Google can enter the market to provide any competition. It is literally taking local governments to start that and even a few of those are failing because of regulation.

          Before we allow a politician to regulate anything we must first make sure they understand "HOW" we want them to regulate and what must absolutely be off limits for them. Until then, all calls for regulation are really just heard as calls for a power grab by politicians and code for businesses to stop caring about the consumer and instead... care about the regulator.

          If you were in business, would yo go to the powerless consumer or the powerful politician to keep your business alive? If you can "buy" the politician into creating pro-incumbent regulations behind closed doors while publicly hating that regulation as unwanted controls, why would you not do it? You get a win win! Not only do you get the people to "want" that regulation, you also get them to give the power to an easy to buy politician.

          "Just look at China's pollution issue or the pollution we had in the 60s-70s."

          The ones that China generally ignored and also mostly got an exception too for still being a "developing" nation? They still have nasty smog problems, BUT China is already catching up and nearly getting ahead of America in renewables and tech as well and is going to outright BUY America out from under us soon enough. These regulations have only served to do more harm than good to America and China is laughing all the way to the bank. The regulatory zeal is being clearly used against us now and its not even a secret.

          "There are other regulations that should be focused on that prevents startups and protect big business."

          Definitely agree with you there, but those efforts are stigmatized as "de-regulatory" and immediately earns a non-Grata from certain political groups.

          Just the idea of regulation has already been politicized to the point were as you have alrady proven, not being pro-regulation is considered being as "completely anti regulation"


          Anything can be far worse, the problem here is that people are trying to cure a problem that cannot be cured. Instead we only need to make remedy "available" NOT "force it or control it" as regulation will tend to do.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      Does a bear brewery need mauling insurance?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 9:15am

      Re:

      Then came the micro brewery craze as the people could not stand the MBAed crap bear being produced.

      I can fully understand that. A drink made from bears must taste dreadful! ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 7:05am

    One Cable cord ......To Rule Them All

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Content+ConnectionIllegal, 9 May 2018 @ 9:51am

    Been singing this tune since the mid 90's

    Still think content and connection should be illegal.

    Would remove Facebook from their walled garden of 3rd world connections.

    Would remove Comcast from owning NBC Universal, MSNBC et

    Would block Disney from creating their walled garden and blocking media on "rival" networks.

    Would allow openings for connection only providers that do much better at pricing and connection speeds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 10:08am

      Re: Been singing this tune since the mid 90's

      Definitely, this would be anti-trust regulation and one of the kinds of regulation I can agree with.

      Unfortunately government is Pro-trust. Businesses are easier to control when they are large and lumbering.

      This is NEVER going to happen. I do mean that literally, too many people and politicians want these monopolies, not in their words mind you, but in action they do!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 6:28pm

    Can't wait to see what diet, fat-free bullshit Richard Bennett is going to dream up just to point out that Bode is wrong...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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