Comcast announced on Thursday an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable for more than $45 billion in stock, a deal that would combine the biggest and second-biggest cable television operators in the country.
For Comcast, which completed its acquisition of NBC Universal, the television and movie powerhouse, from General Electric less than a year ago, the latest deal would be its second big act to radically reshape the media landscape in the United States. And the merger is almost certain to bring to an end a protracted takeover battle that Charter Communications has been waging for Time Warner Cable.
The resulting company would provide cable service for more than half of all cable customers.
If I were a regulator, not only would I not approve the merger, I would be watching cable companies’ handling of the new freedom the courts have given them recently very closely and, if they were found to be giving advantages to their own content in streaming, I would be seriously considering antitrust procedures against them.
Cable companies don’t operate within a market system. They have local monopolies and within their territories by and large do not compete with other cable companies. You need look no farther to identify the reason for the shoddy and expensive service for which cable companies are renowned. As Wil Wheaton put his reaction to news of the merger
BREAKING: Comcast and Time Warner merging to create bigger, shittier monopoly.
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) February 13, 2014
Streaming services threaten the cozy situation that cable companies have and explains the eagerness that cable companies have shown to use their monopoly powers to dominate the broadband Internet service business in the areas they serve. I honestly don’t see how very large cable companies which are government-granted monopolies that produce their own content and control broadband are in the interest of their customers.