The country's top antitrust official, Bill Baer, will be recused from reviewing Comcast's proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, reports Reuters
. Baer represented NBC Universal owner, General Electric, when Comcast successfully acquired NBC Universal back in 2011. Leading the antitrust review will be Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse and Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Gelfand. Renata Hesse was the FCC's top antitrust official during the review of the AT&T's rejected attempted takeover of T-Mobile.
HBO has announced that they continue to expand availability of their HBO Go streaming effort, which is this week being made available on the Sony Playstation 3
. However, once again highlighting the fractured and often annoying tendency of content agreements and the "TV Everywhere" approach, Comcast users won't be able to use the new functionality.
In June of last year Comcast announced
that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot. More specifically, update routers would now offer two signals: one being yours, and the other being a "xfinitywifi" SSID signal providing free Wi-Fi to other Comcast users in your general area.
To get their acquisition of NBC approved by regulators, Comcast proposed a merger condition requiring they provide $10, 1.5 Mbps broadband to all of the homes that qualify for the National School Lunch Program. This "Internet Essentials" program has seen significant criticism
(and even some protests in Philly
) over the years for being a bit of a public relations show pony, with people complaining Comcast intentionally made the program cumbersome and difficult to qualify for.
Comcast has quite a chore ahead of it in order to gain regulatory approval, given concerns about vertical integration, overall reach and concentrated market power when it comes to content licensing. One of the ideas being considered as a merger condition would be to spin off some of the acquired customers into an entirely new company. story continues..
ISPs don't reveal the number of copyright violation warnings they send out as part of the entertainment industry's "copyright alert system," or the number of users who've received multiple warnings. In fact, as the "six strikes" system reaches its one year anniversary, no hard data on the program has been released by anybody involved, whatsoever. story continues..
Slowly but surely, city governments are realizing just how bad it can be for their residents when one TV provider has the exclusive right to provide cable TV services. In Spokane, Washington, Comcast is the exclusive provider for cable TV services
and believes that it should no longer have to follow federal price regulations.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled what should be the first public forum for debating the benefits and drawbacks of Comcast's planned $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Judiciary Committee chair Sen. story continues..
According to a new Ranker.com poll
, AT&T is considered the worst at customer service with Time Warner Cable ranked second and Comcast ranked sixth. The next telecom company doesn't even appear on their list until Verizon Wireless shows up at spot 21. "Younger consumers appear particularly frustrated by Time Warner and Comcast, naming them the #1 and #3 worst companies in our data, which suggests that these companies’ reputations are worst amongst the very consumers most likely to opt for internet television," states Ranker.com Data Analyst Ravi Iyer.
It looks like Verizon won't be too far behind Comcast, who over the weekend struck a deal charging Netflix for direct interconnection
to Comcast's users. "I'm not here to pre-announce and I'm not here to change my hand at the negotiating table, but I think there's a good opportunity here," Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam stated in an interview with CNBC
. "Both [Netflix CEO] Reed [Hastings] and I have talked about it and we think it's in both of our interests." McAdam revealed Verizon has been in talks about such a deal for much of the last year, as subscriber Netflix streaming performance has increasingly gotten worse.
Comcast users should start seeing improvement in the abysmal streaming performance they've been complaining about for several months
. A report in the Wall Street Journal
reported this afternoon that the two sides have come to an agreement regarding a more direct connection between the Comcast and Netflix networks.
Comcast is getting prepared to expand their 505 Mbps down, 65 Mbps up "Extreme 505" into additional markets. A source tells Multichannel News
that Comcast will be launching the ultra-fast tier in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami as soon as next week, followed by a more formal launch in April.
As we've noted previously
, short-lived new Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus stood to profit quite handsomely from getting an acquisition deal done just months after taking over the CEO spot from Glenn Britt. Language in his contract has Marcus potentially making $56 million (depending on stock fluctuations) on Comcast's proposed acquisition of the company, assuming it makes its way past regulators.
A Time Warner Cable shareholder has sued to stop Comcast's $45.2 billion takeover over the company, arguing the deal faces steep regulatory approval hurdles and was the result of "unfair dealing." According to Bloomberg
, the lawsuit aims to stop the "sale of the company at an unfair price through an unfair and self-serving process to Comcast." Shareholder Breffni Barrett argues that Comcast's massive size raises antitrust concerns that wouldn't have come with a smaller suitor like Charter (even though Charter refused to make an offer above $132 per share
The lobbying/regulator revolving door has been spinning so quickly for Comcast that it should greatly help ease approval of their Time Warner Cable acquisition (as an aside, somebody should harness it for renewable energy). You'll recall that former FCC boss Michael Powell now heads the cable industry's top lobbying organization, the NCTA. story continues..
Talks to embed Netflix service on Time Warner Cable set top boxes are on hold courtesy of the Comcast merger acquisition, a source informs Bloomberg
. The piece notes that Comcast is much less likely to want Netflix on their set tops due to their heavy focus on the new(ish) X1 set top platform, which Comcast has increasingly linked to their own Streampix video services. Time Warner Cable had recently announced new "Maxx" broadband, cable and set top upgrades
, but it remains unclear how many subscribers will actually get to see them before the deal is completed.
"People familiar with the company's thinking" (aka pretty much anybody) tell the Wall Street Journal
that Charter is unlikely to make a counter offer to acquire Time Warner Cable. The company is unlikely to go above their existing $132 per share offer to match or exceed Comcast's $159 per share offer, a price point Charter had hoped to drive down by apparently insulting Time Warner Cable services
. Instead, notes the Journal, Charter and John Malone will focus their efforts on other possible acquisition targets like Cox Communications, as well as take a chunk of the subscribers and networks Comcast will attempt to divest to make the deal more palatable to regulators.
A number of companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Google, and Microsoft are expected to announce a new coalition named WiFiForward
that will push for expansion of access to unlicensed spectrum for wireless networks. The new coalition was supposed to be announced yesterday, though the announcement appears to have been delayed out of fears it wouldn't have been noticed under the din of the Comcast Time Warner Cable announcement.
Notably absent from the coalition is AT&T and Verizon, who use Wi-Fi for offloading, but would obviously prefer you pay them for accessing cellular networks:
...after spending billions of dollars to upgrade to faster, so-called LTE technology, AT&T and its peers are now looking to bring that traffic back. "We are now at a place where the pricing is right, LTE is performing very, very well, and you want to drive utilization of these networks," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said at an analysts conference in December.
The cable industry originally had cellular ambitions but after acquiring spectrum (now owned by Verizon) realized that competing with AT&T and Verizon on their turf would be very cash intensive. They've instead worked together to offer a broader array of publicly available hotspots in higher traffic areas, which are free if you subscribe to traditional cable services.
Comcast today didn't waste much time in paving the way for what they hope will be regulatory approval of their $45 billion planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable
. Needless to say, there's going to be a lot of worries about the impact of letting Comcast grow ever larger, even if the company plans to divest a small chunk of their acquired markets to Charter Communications.
Comcast this morning confirmed reports from last night
that the company would be buying (or trying to buy) Time Warner Cable in a deal estimated to be worth around $45 billion. In a statement
released this morning, Comcast promises the deal will create a "world-class company" and "meaningful operational efficiencies" resulting in a "superior experience for our customers." You'll of course get to be the judge of that, provided the deal even gets past regulators wary of vertical integration who may not be eager to see Comcast grow larger. Comcast states they expect the deal to close by the end of 2014.
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