Comcast, Time Warner Start Merger Push Today

The LA Times reports that Comcast and Time Warner begin their merger effort in earnest today:

Comcast will probably file its public interest statement with the FCC on Tuesday. That statement is essentially the company’s argument for why the Time Warner Cable acquisition wouldn’t harm the public and should be approved.

Cohen, along with Time Warner Cable Chief Financial Officer Artie Minson, will appear before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Also set to appear is Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department lawyer and current chief executive of Public Knowledge, a consumer group that has raised concerns about the combination.

Comcast executives have said they expect the deal to be approved by the FCC and the Justice Department.

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The Most Powerful Man in Philadelphia

Brian Roberts Comcast

Photography by Adam Jones

The last time we ranked the most powerful people in Philadelphia, in November 2009, Brian Roberts came in at a solid but not spectacular number 11. The book on Roberts was that he used his clout to run his company and not necessarily to influence life in the city.

So what’s happened in four and a half years that’s vaulted him to the top of our list? Simple: Comcast is vastly larger, more powerful and more ambitious than it was then — a reflection of Roberts’s growing vision for the company.

Since acquiring control of NBC Universal in 2011, Comcast has become one of the world’s most prominent and profitable media conglomerates, with interests in everything from Internet service and home security to movies, TV production and theme parks. And its momentum shows no sign of stopping. In February the company announced its intention to buy Time Warner Cable, which — if the sale is approved by the FCC and the Justice ­Dep­artment — would give it control of 30 percent of all U.S. cable and Internet markets. Perhaps more importantly for Philadelphia, the company also announced plans to build a second office tower in Center City — this one designed by renowned architect Norman Foster. (Ground will be broken this summer on the new building, which will bring 6,300 temporary construction jobs and 2,800 permanent positions to Center City.)

Philly Mag editor Tom McGrath talked with Roberts, 54, about the state of the company, plans for the new building, and how Philadelphia’s fate is now entwined with that of its most high-profile corporation.

With the focus on innovation and technology, your new building seems to be a statement about where Comcast is headed as well as a major commitment to Philadelphia. Does it feel that way to you? It does. Initially the project was started by simply … we’re out of space, which is hard to imagine. We’re always careful not to get ahead of ourselves, but we have a thousand employees who work in downtown Philadelphia who don’t have an office in the Comcast Center. And so the project began purely out of space needs. Once we started to discuss what we would build, that’s when I felt we should try to think about what the company’s needs are going to be. Where is the growth coming from? And a lot of that growth is around innovation and technology.

And that raised the question: Should we build that in Philadelphia? And the answer is, we think we can successfully recruit and attract the talent, and retain the talent, and do something that perhaps no one is doing anywhere in the country — build a vertical campus, and have the newest part of the campus be completely different from the last building and give it its own personality and sense of purpose.

Ten years ago, Comcast was mostly a cable company. After the NBC Universal acquisition, you became a cable and content company. How do you see yourselves going forward? We’ve thought about that question a lot, and with the help of [chief communications officer] D’Arcy Rudnay, we have a real definition. We view ourselves uniquely at the crossroads of media and technology. We are helping to create news, entertainment, sports, broadband, connectivity for homes and businesses, new advertising platforms. There are other news and sports and media companies, and there are other cable companies, and there are people who only focus on phone and wireless. Our company has the opportunity to touch all of those spaces here and, hopefully in the future, around the world.

Comcast Upgrades X1, Lets Users Download DVR’d Shows to Tablets

The X1 upgrade includes a streamlined user guide to help viewers find their favorite videos and shows.

The X1 upgrade includes a streamlined user guide to help viewers find their favorite videos and shows.

Ever wish you could download your DVR’d TV shows to your iPad and take them on a plane with you? Comcast customers in the Philadelphia region will be able to do that starting today.

The new feature is part of an upgrade of the Xfinity’s software upgrade to its X1 platform, which already offers access to live, recorded, and on-demand television and movies. The upgrade also includes revisions to the platform’s on-screen guide to help users more easily find the shows and channels they desire out of the vast array of content available.

But customers will probably notice that they now have more options for viewing TV and movies than they did before. Over their home wifi network, for example, they’ll be able to view live TV and DVR recordings on multiple devices, using the Xfinity TV site for laptops and computers, or the brand-new Xfinity TV app for tablets and mobile devices. Using that app, users will also be able to “check out” up to 10 DVR-recorded videos — they won’t be available on the home DVR until the checkout is over — for offline viewing on the road, away from home.

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Consumers Hate Comcast and Time Warner

Bloomberg reports: “Merger partners Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. are two of America’s least favorite cable companies, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports. The cable giants showed up near the bottom of the magazine’s rankings in a survey of 81,848 users of television, Internet and phone plans, the magazine reported Tuesday. Subscribers gave the companies low marks for customer support and for value. ‘Everything else in consumer technology is getting more affordable every year — everything except communications services,’ said Glenn Derene, Consumer Reports’ electronics editor and lead author of the story.”

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