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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: antitrust, competition, consolidation
Companies: 20th century fox, comcast, sky

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2018 @ 9:32am

    Re: Re: Re: State Actor

    ah yes, that would help!

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.