The Comcast-NBCU deal may have been approved years ago but the merger remains under scrutiny.
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Most recently the American Cable Association (ACA), a lobbying group for midsize cable operators, is turning up the heat on Comcast over its business model. ACA drafted and is planning to send a letter to the Department of Justice asking them to investigate Comcast-NBCU for engaging in anti-competitive behavior, sources familiar with the matter tell FOX Business.
The letter will argue Comcast is exerting price pressure by withholding “must have” programming from local stations, squeezing rival cable distributors by threatening to raise prices. The cable association has been opposed to the Comcast-NBCU deal since day one, arguing the merger has hurt consumers, and ACA has already pressured Congress to address Comcast’s anti-competitive behavior. This letter will be a more targeted effort to change the media landscape—asking Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, to issue a civil investigative demand that would open a case against Comcast.
The ACA has reportedly been waiting until after midterms to send the letter so it won’t be overshadowed by election news.
The Democrats won back control of the House for the first time in eight years. With a Democrat majority, Congress may be more likely to take action against media behemoths. President Trump has been vocal about opposing the AT&T, Time-Warner merger—breaking up media giants may be one issue on which Democrats in the House and President Trump can work together.
DOJ is in the process of appealing thr AT&T and Time Warner merger. While there are some similarities between AT&T and Comcast—both are vertical mergers that allow a single entity to both produce and distribute content—ACA sources believe the Comcast deal is even more egregious than the AT&T deal. With classic programs like SNL and its many regional sports networks, NBC has more “must see” content than Time Warner’s programming which includes networks like CNN and Showtime. Comcast also owns a greater number of local TV stations, which give the company a greater ability to squeeze regional competitors.
Given DOJ’s willingness to appeal the decision to approve the AT&T, Time-Warner deal, it is likely they will welcome the chance to investigate Comcast.
Sources say it’s unclear if ACA has finalized its decision to send the letter to the DOJ and when exactly that will be.Both the DOJ and ACA declined comment. Comcast did not respond to a request for comment.