So, how could Comcast—in its merger with Time Warner, in its new deal with Netflix—start to make your life better? Here are the ideas popping up on the Internet today:
• It could lead to an improvement in cable service. Don’t laugh. Technician Online says that’s a possible outcome of the merger. But that’s mostly the case if you’re a Time Warner customer.
The proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable has received a lot of critical attention from both customers of both companies as it could potentially alter prices and quality, but not all outcomes may be detrimental to Raleigh residents, according to Michael Walden, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor & Extension Economist at N.C. State.
If there are no viable competitors, there’s not much motivation to do things better and to innovate,” Walden said.
However, Walden said he has heard that in comparison to Time Warner, Comcast has better technology, faster speeds and more innovation techniques, and if that’s the case, customers from both companies will benefit.
“TWC customers can begin looking forward to a better product and Comcast customers will benefit from Comcast’s growth,” Walden said.
• It could avoid causing a Netflix price hike, says CNNMoney:
Dan Rayburn, an analyst with Frost Sullivan, says the agreement will save money for Netflix, since it can now cut out the middlemen and deliver to Comcast directly.
Other analysts are skeptical of that claim, but are still confident there won’t be a big impact on consumers.
“Near term, Netflix is going to eat it,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. He expects Netflix to raise subscription costs by $1 or $2 per month next year, though he said that price hike will be driven by a variety of factors, including costs to acquire content and expand internationally.
• It can bring about video’s glorious future, says Fast Money:
Much like other industry stakeholders like Twitter, Comcast is well aware that cable customers are outgrowing their cable boxes and remote controls–and that new successor devices, like Xfinity sets and smartphone remote control apps, can capture all sorts of additional data that can then be monetized. The smart television revolution, of which Xfinity is very much a part, isn’t just about offering a better viewing experience–it’s also about leveraging as much data about viewers as possible for advertisers and other parties. While companies like Amazon use every click a visitor makes to serve them with products and specialized services, cable providers haven’t leveraged the data revolution to serve television viewers with customized ads yet.
Comcast knows that the future belongs to the parties who can find out exactly how many seconds viewers pause their channel flipping when a show interests them–and they want to make sure it’s them obtaining the data, not Roku, Google, or Apple.
• It could even (counterintuitively) improve the prospects for net neutrality, says CNN’s Sanjay Sanghoee:
That’s because the real hurdle to the principle that Internet service providers should allow users access to all content, regardless of the source, is not that they could potentially play favorites but rather that U.S. networks lack bandwidth. The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 35th in the world in broadband capacity even as sites like Netflix grow rapidly (as you can see in the graph below) and require more bandwidth.
In order for the net to be really neutral and for users to be able to access all sites with the same fidelity, we need an upgrade of our broadband infrastructure. Network providers want sites that utilize a lot of network capacity to share in the cost of expanding that infrastructure. That has failed to happen so far but the Netflix-Comcast deal could be a sign of a positive shift. If content providers and distributors are willing to share the expense, our broadband capacity might get the boost it needs.
On the other hand:
• It could threaten free speech, says Katrina vanden Heuvel:
Here the merger doesn’t just affect the marketplace of cable; it threatens the marketplace of ideas. The protection of free speech under our Constitution depends on citizens having access to many ideas, many sources, many ways of getting ideas and information. Letting mega-corporations consolidate control of key parts of the media infrastructure directly threatens that access.
The United States already has suffered the ravages of “too big to fail” banks, curbed neither by market nor by law. The last thing we need is consolidated communications monopolies, constricting the marketplace of ideas while gouging captured consumers.
So there’s that. Which side is more right? Or can they both be right?
Other Comcastic headlines:
• Comcast, Time Warner PACs favored Conn. delegation, party (Journal Inquirer): “Over the last three election cycles the corporate political action committees organized by Comcast and Time Warner Cable have contributed a total of $72,500 to the seven members of the all-Democrat delegation as well as to the Democratic State Central Committee.”
• Consumerist offers an overview of how the government review of the merger will work.
• Comcast hit with lawsuit claiming racial discrimination (The Wrap): “In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Karis Rouse, identified in the suit as an African-American male, claims that he was hired as a sales representative at Comcast’s Horsham, Penn., facility in January 2010, eventually rising to sales supervisor. Rouse’s lawsuit claims that it was smooth sailing, including positive performance evaluations and praise for his work, until March 2012, when Erin Kaighn became his direct supervisor. At that point, things began to sour, the suit claims, with Kaighn treating Rouse differently than ‘the other Caucasian employees she managed.’”
From Comcast’s PR department:
NBC Olympics Coverage of Winter Paralympics Begins March 1: “NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee will present an unprecedented 52 hours of coverage of the upcoming Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games across NBC and NBCSN including 27 hours of live coverage, beginning with the Opening Ceremony on Friday, March 7 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN. TeamUSA.org will live stream all events from the Paralympic Winter Games.”
Xfinity Watchathon Week Returns: “The biggest catch-up in TV history is back. Xfinity Watchathon Week is returning from March 31- April 6, 2014. Get ready for #Watchathon by following@Comcast and @XFINITY_TV.”