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The Comcast Merger Will Have Benefits, But Are They Worth It?
by Karl Bode 11:28AM Tuesday Mar 18 2014
Most merger supporters are quick to point out that since Comcast and Time Warner Cable don't directly compete, the new $45 billion proposed merger doesn't pose any risks. Except most everyone else generally understands that letting Comcast grow relentlessly larger could come with certain anti-competitive problems in terms of content licensing negotiations leverage, or in such a content and media giant using the (usage capped) connection to the end user's home to bully Internet streaming competitors.

But for all the deal's risks, there are actually a few good things that could result for Time Warner Cable. CNET's Marguerite Reardon this week dug through a few of them, correctly noting that Time Warner Cable has traditionally been sluggish on TV and broadband upgrades, meaning that users should see faster speeds and nicer set top boxes in time courtesy of Comcast, who has been bullish on getting DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades deployed.

Reardon also makes the good point that Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations, which should mean fewer annoying content blackouts for subscribers (though the flip side of that is that Comcast shells out higher rates more quickly; rates passed on to you). If there's a flaw in her argument, it's once again this faith people seem to have that Google Fiber (deployed to all of a handful of actual people) or the phone companies will bring competitive balance to the even-larger cable giant:
quote:
Rather, I would argue that the telephone companies -- AT&T and Verizon Communications -- and to a much lesser extent, Google, are providing more incentive to all cable operators to increase their network speeds. Comcast actually faces less competition in its markets from Google and the phone companies than Time Warner Cable, and the increased exposure to this threat could spur faster improvement in the network.
Except as many of our regular readers know, AT&T and Verizon have frozen any serious fixed-line broadband expansion and are quickly backing away from huge swaths of the country, much of it Comcast territory. What do we surmise will be the impact on Comcast speeds, prices and service when they face even less competition than ever before?

To be clear, this is something that's going to be a problem whether this deal happens or not, but this looming and massive decrease in broadband competition is oddly something most people covering tech have yet to become fully aware of -- and it's something that needs talking about in context of the deal.

What do you think, Time Warner Cable customers? Are better set top boxes and potential access to faster, similarly-expensive broadband services worth the potential monopsony threat Comcast will pose over the longer haul?

view:
topics flat nest 

Mr Guy

@charter.com

good point?

"Reardon also makes the good point that Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations, which should mean fewer annoying content blackouts for subscribers"

Translated that means when the content companies ask for more money Comcast is more likely to give into those higher rates without much of a fight. Wonder who picks up that tab? Of course when a Company like TWC tries to fight the good fight against higher and higher fees for content their customers reward them by leaving them for another company that gleefully accepts these cost increases. And customers wonder why rates keep going up.

anonname

@comcast.net

Re: good point?

Maybe the huge negotiating power will convince broadcasters to lower bills?

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Re: good point?

said by anonname :

Maybe the huge negotiating power will convince broadcasters to lower bills?

That will only mean higher profits for Comcast, at least for the C-level executives, as I'm sure the customers will continue to see regular price hikes. Has any other lowered operating cost trickled down to the customer? Something is trickling down, but it isn't savings.

JamesPC

join:2005-10-12
Orange, CA
said by Mr Guy :

"Reardon also makes the good point that Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations, which should mean fewer annoying content blackouts for subscribers"

Translated that means when the content companies ask for more money Comcast is more likely to give into those higher rates without much of a fight. Wonder who picks up that tab? Of course when a Company like TWC tries to fight the good fight against higher and higher fees for content their customers reward them by leaving them for another company that gleefully accepts these cost increases. And customers wonder why rates keep going up.

Very well said Mr Guy, thank you.

SoJersySteve

join:2013-07-25
Mount Laurel, NJ

It's gonna happen no matter what...

As much as we CCST Subscribers are dreading the merger, it's gonna happen and we can't do anything about it!
en103

join:2011-05-02
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Benefits vs. cost

Sure, Comcast hasn't given as many blackouts, or dropped the Superbowl but what has Comcast really given users ?

1. Higher bill
2. Internet cap.

Comcast has typically been aggressive for its business, but that's at the consumer's expense (literally). Time Warner on the other hand has been a little less 'reliable' for lack of a better word, but has generally kept the cost of service lower. Eg. Time Warner triple play 22/2.5 is currently what I would have paid for Comcast double play with 6/1 about 8 years ago here in Los Angeles area. Similarly back then you could not order any of the 'basic' channels (even though it was advertised), but you needed to start at the $65 for basic cable, or $50 + $10 STB for Comcast.

If anything - in 'theory' this will benefit Comcast's negotiation power with media providers. The bad thing - its not likely that any of it will ever make it to the consumer.

gar187er
I do this for a living

join:2006-06-24
Dover, DE
kudos:4

Re: Benefits vs. cost

cause no other companies raise rates, or have caps right?
--
I'm better than you!
en103

join:2011-05-02

1 recommendation

Re: Benefits vs. cost

I never said that they don't.

why60loss

join:2012-09-20
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Time Warner Cable
·Verizon Wireless..
said by en103:

Sure, Comcast hasn't given as many blackouts, or dropped the Superbowl but what has Comcast really given users ?

1. Higher bill
2. Internet cap.

Comcast has typically been aggressive for its business, but that's at the consumer's expense (literally). Time Warner on the other hand has been a little less 'reliable' for lack of a better word, but has generally kept the cost of service lower. Eg. Time Warner triple play 22/2.5 is currently what I would have paid for Comcast double play with 6/1 about 8 years ago here in Los Angeles area. Similarly back then you could not order any of the 'basic' channels (even though it was advertised), but you needed to start at the $65 for basic cable, or $50 + $10 STB for Comcast.

If anything - in 'theory' this will benefit Comcast's negotiation power with media providers. The bad thing - its not likely that any of it will ever make it to the consumer.

Time warner cable's rate for standard internet (15/1) is 57.99 and thats not even talking about how much the TV service cost on top of that.

Comcast cost less even after the promo rate ends.

Below are NON PROMO RATES:

Time warner cable:

15/1= 57.99 a month
20/2=67.99 a month
30/5=77.99 a month
50/5=87.99 a month

Comcast:

25/5= 54.99 a month
50/10=64.99 a month

Yea Time warner cable sure is cheap. Yes sir there prices sure are good. Yep I want them to keep giving us those good rates in NC.

And for the Promo rates:

140 a month for Time warner cable with DVR, 30/5 and phone.

VS

130 a month for Comcast with DVR, 50/10 and phone.

Yep Time warner cable sure cost less there too, yes sir they sure showed Comcast why they shouldn't sell out due to network upkeep and upgrades. Yes sir we should all just run to the nearest Time warner cable office and tell them we all don't want better service for less money. Nope we want to be left alone.

/End of rant or case to why I think this is a good thing

iNetSchmuck

@unassigned.cell

Re: Benefits vs. cost

Don't know how you got these rates but they do not seem accurate.
I pay $76.95/month for a 50/10 Mbps naked internet access from Comcast.
moulder3

join:2007-05-21
Boston, MA

Retransmission negotiations

"Reardon also makes the good point that Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations, which should mean fewer annoying content blackouts for subscribers"

In addition to higher rates & capped broadband (mentioned by previous posters), let's not forget Comcast's other MAJOR concession to broadcast networks:

Despite having a vast on-demand library, almost all broadcast network shows now have disabled controls on Comcast. This means that in addition to having commercials inserted into the on-demand programs, you can't even fast-forward like you would with a DVR'd program.
Phroz

join:2005-11-23
Lewiston, ME

Re: Retransmission negotiations

said by moulder3:

In addition to higher rates & capped broadband (mentioned by previous posters), let's not forget Comcast's other MAJOR concession to broadcast networks:

Despite having a vast on-demand library, almost all broadcast network shows now have disabled controls on Comcast. This means that in addition to having commercials inserted into the on-demand programs, you can't even fast-forward like you would with a DVR'd program.

Wait, what? How is that any different? TWC has commercials in their on-demand programs and we've never been able to fast-forward either.

juilinsandar
Texas Gooner
Premium
join:2000-07-17
San Benito, TX
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Retransmission negotiations

I've been able to FF through some ondemand shows on TWC. It depends on the network as to whether it's allowed. Some shows say that FF is disabled but I've still been able to FF anyway.
--
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. - Sir Winston Churchill
Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink
said by moulder3:

Comcast is a little less hostile in retransmission fee rate negotiations

Retransmission fees are another government approved scam. See this article in wikipedia: »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retransmission_consent

Back in the early 90's when the government approved OTA stations charging retransmission fees there were two alibis. The government alibi was that the fees would defray the cost of improved local programming. An article written in a Video Magazines pointed out that retransmission fees were really eyeball revenue replacement fees. OTA Station managers were crying in their soup because advertisers demanded lower fees because OTA Stations no longer had a monopoly on viewers and cable stations were siphoning off the eyeballs that justified higher advertising fees. What was worse was that viewers that subscribed to cable, were advertisers target viewers since only viewers with significant discretionary income subscribed to cable.
AndyDufresne
Premium
join:2010-10-30
Chanhassen, MN

1 recommendation

Sports watchers get ready to pay

Between Comcast and Time Warner they will own right to tons of sport/RSN. Get ready to pay big bucks if you want to see your favorite team.

2nd Layoffs are coming big time. No need for two marketing departments or call center that service same region.

Content makers better be prepared to get crushed, piss off Comcast and you will lose (insert made up percentage here) of tv viewers in US.

Merger is happening no matter what. David Cohen isn't a big time Obama administration fundraiser for nothing. Time to cash in on his services rendered.

We are screwed.

Almost forgot, Hells NO merger is not worth.

gar187er
I do this for a living

join:2006-06-24
Dover, DE
kudos:4

Re: Sports watchers get ready to pay

there are barely any US call centers for major MSOs, 80% of call volume goes to India now.
--
I'm better than you!

buzz_4_20

join:2003-09-20
Limestone, ME

Re: Sports watchers get ready to pay

except that We ALL pay for sports regardless of subscription.

Mr Guy

@charter.com

Re: Sports watchers get ready to pay

said by buzz_4_20:

except that We ALL pay for sports regardless of subscription.

I also pay for women's programming, kids programming, religious programing, Hispanic programming, black programing, gay programming. Crap like Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo, Axe Men, men who kill gators, shows about midgets, pawn shows, buy crap from storage bins shows, cup cake shows, cheesy sci-fi shows about sharks and tornados, murder porn, tea party news network etc etc shall I go on? I could fill a whole page full of programming I'm paying for that I don't watch.

its_meeeeeee

@comcast.net
The big misconception is that the two companies serve the same regions. They don't. There will still be a need for as many jobs as there are now, plus some temporary jobs to facilitate the merger of the two companies.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1

Comcast will probably buy Arris

Those better set-tops will probably be made possible by Comcast buying Arris like Ma Bell/AT&T owning Western Electric.

Comcast seems to want to be the next Ma' Bell except in the world of Broadband and pay TV.

motorola870

join:2008-12-07
Arlington, TX
kudos:4

Re: Comcast will probably buy Arris

said by IowaCowboy:

Those better set-tops will probably be made possible by Comcast buying Arris like Ma Bell/AT&T owning Western Electric.

Comcast seems to want to be the next Ma' Bell except in the world of Broadband and pay TV.

haha good one they already own a portion ARRIS

»www.zdnet.com/comcast-buys-150m-···0009809/
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH

Re: Comcast will probably buy Arris

No worse than the Bells owning a portion of 2Wire.

djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO

1 recommendation

Considering the alternative, yes.

quote:
What do you think, Time Warner Cable customers? Are better set top boxes and potential access to faster, similarly-expensive broadband services worth the potential monopsony threat Comcast will pose over the longer haul?
Yes. The alternative was getting sold to Charter's Malone, who "has built a reputation as cable's Darth Vader over the last 30 years". So, if I'm getting sold to the dark side either way, I'd rather at least be with a company that's bullish on tech, and has a track record of driving tech forward.

I still appreciate that Comcast brought HD to our area in a timely fashion. Our area has changed owners so many times, they were the only cable company that actually put some effort into our system and brought us cutting-edge technology shortly after taking over.
Millenium

join:2013-10-30
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

...

I have $14.99 non-promotional, uncapped internet through Time Warner and I have $7.99 Netflix. I don't want those to change. 50 mbps service, even 1 gbps is great. But I don't want to be paying $50, $70, or a $100 per month for internet.

Is Comcast going to phase out Time Warner's uncapped Everyday Low Price Internet? Is Comcast charging Netflix so much that Netflix is going to have to raise prices?

why60loss

join:2012-09-20
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Time Warner Cable
·Verizon Wireless..

Re: ...

said by Millenium:

I have $14.99 non-promotional, uncapped internet through Time Warner and I have $7.99 Netflix. I don't want those to change. 50 mbps service, even 1 gbps is great. But I don't want to be paying $50, $70, or a $100 per month for internet.

Is Comcast going to phase out Time Warner's uncapped Everyday Low Price Internet? Is Comcast charging Netflix so much that Netflix is going to have to raise prices?

I thought Comcast had a 10 dollar a month plan 5/1 that would take the place of TWC's 2/1 15 dollar a month everyday low cost plan.

Also sure it's not capped.

Could be mistaken though.
Cobra11M

join:2010-12-23
Mineral Wells, TX

Re: ...

the 5/1 10 dollar from Comcast is only for low income family's that have kids, that are in school, that have help with lunches..

and to top that off will only be around for a few more years and that's it.., FCC mandated it when they bought NBC
Millenium

join:2013-10-30
kudos:1

Re: ...

And it's ironically not available to current Comcast customers.

its_meeeeeee

@comcast.net

Re: ...

It's available to current Comcast customers, and the kids don't have to attend public school. Some areas have even had it opened to the entire city depending on median income.

And that program has actually been extended until at least 2018, well beyond the initial expiration that Comcast brought to the table (NOT THE FCC) in the NBC/Universal merger.
Cobra11M

join:2010-12-23
Mineral Wells, TX

Re: ...

lol, thanks for the info!, sorry about the misinformation yall.. sadly im no Comcast user (Suddenlink here), I was just using info I read over time.. sorry about that

Jason Levine
Premium
join:2001-07-13
USA

1 recommendation

No Competition

Where I am, there's no competition to Time Warner Cable for Internet access. (For TV, I could go with satellite like DirectTV or Dish.) Verizon doesn't have FIOS by me. Though it's in surrounding areas, they've said they don't want to expand. They do offer DSL, but we all know how they're trying to ditch that ASAP. I don't want to jump ONTO a sinking ship! My only other Internet options are mobile broadband (too expensive for primary home use) or dial-up (too slow for my needs).

Effectively, Time Warner Cable is the only game in town and they know that.

Faster speeds would be nice. Right now, I tend to clock in at around 8Mbps. 50mbps would be nice, but quite honestly I'd take more competition over faster speeds. If I had my way, the merger would be approved with one big condition: The network maintenance business would be split from the customer access business.

One company (call it Comcast Networking) would build and maintain their network. They would sell access to the second company (call it Comcast Consumer) as well as to any third party that wanted to provide service in the area. The customer access companies would be responsible for handling customer service (such as service issue reports) and handling all account responsibilities (signing people up, billing them, etc). Comcast Networking would be called in if there was a physical networking issue that needed to be resolved. Finally, Comcast Networking would NOT be allowed to own or deliver any of their own content. The Comcast TV service would be served by the Comcast Consumer company. (This would help build network neutrality right into the business model.)

This would encourage competition which, in turn, would help improve service and bring down prices.

Of course, I'm not going to hold my breath that this will happen.
--
-Jason Levine
rjbasye

join:2000-05-24
Dry Ridge, KY
Reviews:
·VOIPO
·Time Warner Cable

Re: No Competition

I've seen no benefit when Time Warner purchased Insight Communications for 3 billion in 2011. We still have the same channel lineup and customer service now has a longer wait time when you call them. CBS owns CNET and they are not going to say anything negative about the merger.
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
·MegaPath
If you want to see this done, then Co-Ops are you options. Private businesses are not going to do this. And Comcast Networking and Comcast Consumer would be the same company. This happens already with power and gas companies, and the consumers see little to no difference in pricing. Especially since the actual regulated company is allowed to create a non-regulated new provider and undercut themselves. And in most cases those new companies strike bulk buying prices with cities and get everyone to sign up with them regardless.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

Status quo, please.

While I can't see any legal reason to stop the merger, I'd rather TWC was left alone.
They are a remarkably better company than their predecessor, and though they are not perfect, they offer reasonable packages if you negotiate well, and they do invest in plant upgrades. i

We have plenty of speed, thank you. The STB's may stink, but the answer there is to migrate towards customer-owned equipment, i.e. Roku, (with a "virtual outlet fee"), not continue the agony of cableco maintaining a huge inventory of obsolete equipment.
TWC can achieve that without Comcast.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Re: Status quo, please.

It has to be profits from box rentals that keep customer owned STBs from happening. Like some STB extension of DOCSIS, Buy a box at any major retailer and it gets a bootfile that tells it what it can do. After all my CM is mine and my service level with Comcast determines which bootfile the modem gets and that sets my speed.

I seem to remember some experiment into doing just this but it was never pushed beyond trial phases. But it did not involve cableCard.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast
TWC made the choice to sell.
At this point it's only about who buy them.
So far Comcast made the best offer and can make the financing work.
Charter made a lesser offer which it seem they would not be able to pay for with Comcast (or some other unknown party)

chip89
Premium
join:2012-07-05
Independence, OH

1 recommendation

No!

There is nothing good about this! Comcast will make everything worse if this is allowed to happen watch!
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH

Re: No!

How can TWC get any worse?
mpellegrini

join:2009-02-22
Tacoma, WA

Comast bought Maggie Reardon

Obviously. She's just regurgitating their PR vomit like a trained parrot.

With all their millions of dollars, I'm sure they will buy many more "journalists" like her.
XeenFalcon

join:2006-09-13
Salt Lake City, UT

Its all about leveraging us (the end user) against the content providers

It used to be that ISP's had smaller user base's and would do there best to ensure the best possible routing to the internet as a matter of customer service. Now that the ISP's have gotten huge user base's they can now say to the content providers if you want access to our users your gonna have to pay. What just happened with netflix is a good example of this. Never mind the fact that we as a user pay a subscriber fee to have access to the content we want. Allowing the Comcast/TWC merger will only make this worst.

Qumahlin
Never Enough Time
Premium,MVM
join:2001-10-05
united state

Re: Its all about leveraging us (the end user) against the content providers

What happened to Netflix is a terrible example of this. Netflix chose to use Cogent, a provider who is well known in this industry to oversell their lines/peering agreements even before Netflix was ever a client. Cogent was taking Netflix's money to deliver a service that they could not deliver to all providers because their peering agreements could not cover it and they also refused to pay more...

Netflix decided that rather than wait for Cogent to give up their pissing match, they could buy colo space through Comcast and have a direct line which offloads a massive amount of data that was going through Cogent and reduces their reliance on them on top of allowing them to better service customers on providers that still go through them.

People don't seem to understand this is MASSIVELY different from net neutrality. You can search this site for plenty of stories about Cogents constant violation of the basic peering tenets or google it. If you google be sure to look back YEARS since most of the results you will get now will be about netflix, whereas you can find peering disputes from way before.
old_wiz_60

join:2005-06-03
Bedford, MA

What about layoffs?

What about the tens of thousands who will be laid off due to "duplication"????, not to mention huge price increases..
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH

Re: What about layoffs?

TWC has already done that by hiring outside call centers in India and by transferring calls to other regions to better service customers that know nothing.

YukonHawk

join:2001-01-07
Patterson, NY
Reviews:
·Comcast

What do I think.....

Comcast better get their act together for better customer service. They need better training programs and less ascorbic reps that know how to deal with the public. In my case all of the reps I have dealt with out of the Danbury call center have been an 8 out of 10 in my book. But every once in a while you get one or two that do not know their elbow from their backside. Otherwise CC service will be where it is now....at the bottom of the cesspool.!
XeenFalcon

join:2006-09-13
Salt Lake City, UT

Re: Its all about leveraging us (the end user) against the content providers

Netflix IS a good example of this. If the peering between cogent and comcast becomes saturated the ISP should increase the bandwidth going to the peer point, its all part of the providing the best possible routing to your customers thing. These so called peering disputes should have never happened comcast should have gracefully excepted cogent peering for free because that's what providing good routing for your customers is all about. The fact that some people used VPN to get better through put with netflix says everything about Comcast routing, the user in affect took the routing upon them selves by using a VPN, which is very sad that it has come down to this. Routing through your ISP should provide you with the most direct route possible but this is no longer the case with the large ISP's. A local ISP in my town pays for a 10 Gb connection with cogent along with three other 10Gb connections with nlayer, XO, and Level 3 all to insure the best possible routing to its costumers. and thats what provding internet should be. »xmission.com/our_network

why60loss

join:2012-09-20
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Time Warner Cable
·Verizon Wireless..

Re: Its all about leveraging us (the end user) against the content providers

said by XeenFalcon:

Netflix IS a good example of this. If the peering between cogent and comcast becomes saturated the ISP should increase the bandwidth going to the peer point, its all part of the providing the best possible routing to your customers thing. These so called peering disputes should have never happened comcast should have gracefully excepted cogent peering for free because that's what providing good routing for your customers is all about. The fact that some people used VPN to get better through put with netflix says everything about Comcast routing, the user in affect took the routing upon them selves by using a VPN, which is very sad that it has come down to this. Routing through your ISP should provide you with the most direct route possible but this is no longer the case with the large ISP's. A local ISP in my town pays for a 10 Gb connection with cogent along with three other 10Gb connections with nlayer, XO, and Level 3 all to insure the best possible routing to its costumers. and thats what provding internet should be. »xmission.com/our_network

That sounds good and all, but why a 1TB cap on a freaking 1gbs connection?

I would just sign up for the 100/100 with the 1TB cap and pay 35 dollars a month in place of 65.

Couldn't they at lest have given you a 2TB if your going to pay almost 2times more a month for internet. That would be like AT&T making a 4G LTE 2GB plan cost 2 times as much as a 2GB 3G plan.

I am glad you have a local ISP, but a 1TB cap on the 1GBs seems kind of low to me.
BiggA

join:2005-11-23
EARTH

NYC and NBCU

NYC will expose Comcast to fierce competition from RCN and FIOS.

I think they should allow the merger on the condition that Comcast divest NBCU.

Weird

Essentially isn't comcast just trying to now buy the areas it was required to divest when it bought Adelphia??? Seems kind of weird.