Following AT&T's Lead, Comcast Makes A $65 Billion Bid For Fox

from the merge-ALL-The-things! dept

Encouraged by AT&T's massive merger victory this week, Comcast has made its own $65 billion acquisition offer for a large chunk of 21st Century Fox. According to the Comcast announcement, the company's all cash $65 billion dollar offer is a notable step up from Disney's own $52.4 billion all-stock package, setting up a showdown between two companies that have had a contentious relationship since Comcast's 2004 failed hostile takeover attempt of Disney.

The deal includes the FX Channel, numerous regional sports networks, and a minority stake in European cable TV giant Sky, which would all be tacked on to the NBC Universal assets Comcast acquired back in 2011. Fox will however retain Fox News, Fox Sports, and Fox broadcasting, which will all remain under the existing Fox brand. In its statement, Comcast rolled out the usual claptrap about how the combination would be lovely for all involved:

"We have long admired what the Murdoch family has built at Twenty-First Century Fox. After our meetings last year, we came away convinced that the 21CF businesses to be sold are highly complementary to ours, and that our company would be the right strategic home for them."

Comcast had previously hinted that it was waiting to see the outcome of AT&T's own merger battle with the DOJ before making its own bid for Fox. Comcast and many analysts believe that the comically broad nature of AT&T's court victory (based on a pinhole narrow reading of the markets by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, who clearly has never heard of things like zero rating or net neutrality), means the precedent set will likely result in a DOJ that's more hesitant to intervene in potentially problematic merger moving forward.

That's especially true of vertical integration mergers, where modern U.S. antitrust law tends to be ill-equipped to handle some of the more complex new media anti-competitive concerns that pop up. Combined with the death of ISP privacy rules and the neutering of net neutrality, we're creating a brave new landscape where there's very little to stop giants like Comcast and AT&T from using their last mile monopolies--combined with massive ownership of content needed to compete with these giants--as anti-competitive bludgeons against consumers and competitors alike.

For example, there's now nothing of note preventing AT&T and Comcast from exempting its own content (like HBO or a regional sports game) from arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps, while penalizing those who use a competitor's service (Netflix, or the next Netflix). Similarly, there's nothing stopping Comcast or Verizon from arbitrarily throttling competitors at interconnection points, driving up the cost for competitors to access their broadband subscribers. There's an ocean of creative ways to hamstring competitors the government is now largely helpless to effectively police, and as the AT&T court win shows, the ISP claim that this isn't a problem because antitrust will save us all clearly isn't a valid argument.

With the FCC making it very clear it's a glorified rubber stamp, that leaves the DOJ as the only real wild card in terms of whether any meaningful conditions get applied to this deal. Granted if you followed the NBC Universal merger, you'll recall that Comcast has a pretty terrible history of ignoring merger conditions when it suits it, and regulators from both parties tend to do little more than grumble when the company tap dances around imposed restrictions (though that was a major reason why Obama-era regulators blocked Comcast's 2014 attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable (not to be confused with Time Warner)).

Obviously there's still plenty of folks that see zero problems with massive broadband monopolies gobbling up countless media empires while paying millions of dollars to neuter state and federal oversight. And their theory that these kinds of deals are no problem because the market self-regulates (ignoring there is no free market competition in broadband to organically hold them accountable) will soon have a perfect opportunity to put their theories to the test.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 6:22am

    First you establish a vertical monopoly. Because it's ok, there is competition elsewhere. Then you expand horizontally and MaBell will look tame in comparison.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 6:42am

    For example, there's now nothing of note preventing AT&T and Comcast from exempting its own content (like HBO or a regional sports game) from arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps, while penalizing those who use a competitor's service (Netflix, or the next Netflix).

    Comcast recently claimed that their data cap scam (which it has now 100% proven was never about traffic management by now shutting down their congestion management /throttling system as unneeded, while keeping the caps in place) is totally neecessary because it's supposedly the only way by which Comcast can get the money it needs to afford to upgrade any of its infrastructure.

    And yet it has $65B in petty cash just sitting around to throw Fox's way.

    Uh huh.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Richard Bennett, 14 Jun 2018 @ 6:48am

    Today's Big Lie

    You pirates see mergers, I see competition. I'm not even going to log in to tell you how your hero McBodeface is wrong, wrong, wrong. It's beneath me.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 7:52am

    the company's all cash $65 billion dollar offer

    Just remember that when they complain that a subsidy was not enough to upgrade their network as promised, or request a subsidy to upgrade part of the network.

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

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 9:14am

    "With the FCC making it very clear it's a glorified rubber stamp, that leaves the DOJ as the only real wild card in terms of whether any meaningful conditions get applied to this deal."

    Not true.

    Customers can do a great deal to force a company to change its behavior.

    However, their insatiable selfish desires for the latest shiny quarter all but prevents this.

    Twas a day "boycott" actually terrified companies.

    Now, they just laugh at the word.

    Imagine, briefly, if *every single ISP customer* in the US stood up against these companies by simply not paying their bills.

    I highly doubt for a second ISPs would stand their ground.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      "Twas a day "boycott" actually terrified companies.

      Now, they just laugh at the word."

      Boycotts only really work with one of two conditions - there is real competition and/or the product offered is optional. For a great many people in the US, internet connectivity is not optional, and they also have no real choice in supplier (a lot less too, once these mergers go through).

      "Imagine, briefly, if *every single ISP customer* in the US stood up against these companies by simply not paying their bills."

      Imagine whatever you want, but that would never happy in the real world - no matter the type of product or service. There isn't a subject you can get that many people to agree upon, let alone take affirmative action to affect it. Hell, I bet you couldn't get that many people to understand what the problem is, given the amount of disinformation floating around about NN and the like that gets people voting against their own interests already.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re:

        "There isn't a subject you can get that many people to agree upon, let alone take affirmative action to affect it."

        You were going well until that part. As usual you don't understand much, only enough to be dangerous and run foul of the Dunning-Kruger effect. There have been many events in history proving you very wrong there. And if you really need links for evidence then that is just too bad for you then.

        There are lots of subjects people agree on in large swaths and have take action against in large swaths.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 15 Jun 2018 @ 1:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's a reason I said "that many people". Try reading and comprehending instead of trying to jump on the first words you disagree with.

          "There are lots of subjects people agree on in large swaths and have take action against in large swaths."

          The majority of which had equally large, if not larger, numbers of people fighting on the opposing side, along with large groups who stayed uninvolved or neutral.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 9:41am

      Response to: Jinxed on Jun 14th, 2018 @ 9:14am

      The ISP's would probably respond by boycotting(cutting service from) uppity customers and filing for collections after which warrants can get issued when bills are not paid.

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

  • identicon
    bshock, 14 Jun 2018 @ 9:59am

    The most hated company in the U.S. wants to buy the most reprehensible company in the U.S.? What could possibly go wrong?

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

  • identicon
    TDR, 14 Jun 2018 @ 11:18am

    Rescind corporate personhood and all mergers and acquisitions become impossible.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      What, the two parts of your statement are independent of each other. Somebody, or somebodies own a company, be that a proprietor for a small business, or a lot of shareholders for a large company, and they can sell their company, or more their shares.

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

      • identicon
        TDR, 15 Jun 2018 @ 6:40am

        Re: Re:

        Not so, because without those rights of personhood, companies cannot be bought or sold or merge because they would no longer have the status of a person to be able to do so, because only a person can buy or sell anything. Companies should have to stand or fall completely on their own, individually.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 11:52am

    On the upside we're all getting new cable boxes...
    On the downside they come with a credit card swipe...

    Please swipe to purchase 30 minutes commercial free.
    Please swipe to unlock the ending of the cliffhanger episode.
    Please swipe to unlock the popular show with the higher price because of good ratings.
    Please swipe to unlock 720 & again for 1080.
    Please swipe because fuck you we need more money.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 12:02pm

    mixing bleach and ammonia

    It's too bad that Fox News was not included. It would be interesting to see a merger of the two big cable news channels, Fox News and Comcast-owned MSNBC. As one is obsessively anti-Trump/pro-SJW and the other obsessively pro-Trump/anti-SJW, combining the two channels should ideally cancel each other out, and perhaps end up with white noise 24/7, which would be a huge improvement over their current programming.

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


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