A question that’s emerged from all the very many negative think pieces about the Comcast-Time Warner merger is this: Does anybody not in the employ of the two companies think it’s a good idea?
Maybe! Either that, or we’ve entered the part of the news cycle where the counter-intuitive and contrarian pieces start running just, you know, as an intellectual exercise.
Dan Seitz at Uproxx says the merger will force Comcast to drop its desire for data caps — meaning customers will be able to stream all the Netflix they want without worrying about paying extra or finding their service throttled. That’s not because the uber-big Comcast will be so generous, but because it will be too big a target not to do so.
If the regulators don’t peel off Comcast’s data caps, and Netflix and Amazon won’t manage to punch a hole in them, Comcast still has to deal with the fact that the federal government can simply pass a law and force Comcast to remove those caps as well. In fact, that’s likely to come sooner rather than later.
There is nothing that can motivate a politician like passing a popular law, and the Keep The Netflix And Internet Porn Flowing Act of 2014 is probably being written as we speak. True, Comcast has a lot of money… but again, so do Netflix and Amazon, and all the money in the world can’t help you if no one likes you. It doesn’t help that Comcast’s attempted merger will put it squarely in the sights of none other than Chuck Schumer. Schumer is a publicity hound and he loves consumer-rights issues, and he’s already twisting arms. It really won’t take much for the guy to decide beating up Comcast in the Capitol Building will make him look good.
In short, data caps are the last wails of a dinosaur before it gets sucked under the tar. And now that Comcast has made itself such a target, expect that tar to be particularly hot and sticky.
One problem with the previous scenario? Chuck Schumer is recusing himself from oversight of the merger, because his brother was an attorney who worked on the deal.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune aims for optimism, but finds a mixed bag:
The key consideration needs to be whether creating powerful media behemoths is as good for consumers as it is for shareholders. It’s likely that a successful Comcast-Time Warner deal would spur others, cementing an industry oligopoly that has vast control over distribution and content.
That could benefit consumers if the larger company uses its market muscle to push back on cable networks in setting rates — a cost passed on to subscribers. Yet Comcast is conflicted, if not compromised, in this debate because it owns numerous cable networks that could benefit from price hikes.
And that’s about all the optimism you’ll find right now. More typical is this take from the International Business Times: “Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Promises Worst Customer Service Disaster In History.”
Or the Modesto Bee: “A merger between the nation’s two largest telecommunication operators is bad because of the enormous power it concentrates in so few hands — the power to decide what we see, when we see it and how we see it; the power to shut out content the company doesn’t like; the power to charge more but provide less; and, most worrisome, the power to exert a chokehold on an open Internet.”
Or this from The Wrap: “Activists such as Aaron contend that Comcast will be able to levy higher fees on companies to get faster connections to customers and will have the power as a web service provider to favor certain content, in essence creating a tiered Internet system. That concern has been magnified by last month’s U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 net neutrality regulations.”
Other Comcastic headlines:
• BGR.com reports the deal could put an end to Apple’s long-rumored next-generation Apple TV set-top box. Apple was reportedly partnering with Time Warner on the project, but BGR says its expected Comcast would scrap that in favor of its own X1 box.
• Similarly, SlashGear reports that Netflix has ended talks with Time Warmer to be included as a channel in that company’s service, now that the Comcast deal has emerged.
• And Jimmy Fallon’s debut as Tonight Show host had a Philly-centric flavor, with house band The Roots playing Will Smith onto the set as the show’s first guest. Also on hand? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts — who, as The Hollywood Reporter points out, had better seats than Fallon’s own parents.
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