Comcast Today: Could Sports Fans Scuttle Merger?

Anger over the cable company hoarding local sports viewing for its subscribers.

Could sports fans scuttle Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner?

A new narrative emerging about Comcast is that the Philly-based cable company makes it difficult for fans to watch local teams if they’re not cable subscribers watching the company’s own Regional Sports Networks (RSNs).

David Goodfriend at Huffington Post writes that Comcast will desprive sports fans of their teams:

Ask sports fans in Philadelphia who can’t afford or simply just hate to be Comcast subscribers and instead turned to competing pay-TV companies for service, or fans of the Portland Trailblazers who live in rural Oregon where Comcast is not available. They will tell you about being unable to watch home games because they do not subscribe to Comcast. As for Time Warner Cable, ask the majority of Dodgers fans in Los Angeles –they do not subscribe to Time Warner Cable and they will tell you, no Dodgers games for me. Time Warner Cable makes the games available to its own subscribers and not too many others. Or Charlotte Bobcat fans who subscribe to Time Warner Cable, which refused to carry the Bobcats games on an independent network, and only carried the games once that network had gone bankrupt and Time Warner Cable’s own RSN acquired the rights. That’s just how these companies roll. Pay me my outrageous rates or kiss your local team sports goodbye.

Consumerist adds:

We’ve written before about the mess here in Philadelphia, where Comcast successfully held a death grip on its local sports network through the “terrestrial loophole,” an antiquated aspect of FCC regulations that said a cable operator didn’t need to share its privately owned stations with others in the area if those stations only went out via terrestrial cables. … The FCC closed that loophole several years ago, but CSN Philadelphia is still not available to companies that compete with Comcast in the area. Sources at some of those competitors tell Consumerist it’s because Comcast is demanding an “extortionate” rate — something along the lines of what a cable company would pay to broadcast a major network nationwide — just to air Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers games to customers in the Philadelphia market. … Making matters even worse for those with satellite service, Comcast recently made a deal with the Phillies that ensures that all but around 10 of the team’s 162 games will be broadcast on Comcast-owned stations that are not available to DirecTV or Dish customers./

Beware scorned, cheap sports fans afraid of a big corporation swalling up their televised games. Is that enough, though, to block the merger?

Other Comcastic headlines:

Comcast EVP Stephen B. Burke sold 50,000 shares of Comcast stock on the open market in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, April 30th. The shares were sold at an average price of $51.74, for a total value of $2,587,000.00. Following the sale, the executive vice president now directly owns 672,025 shares in the company, valued at approximately $34,770,574. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at this link. (WatchList News)

Virtually every media and tech company — content providers like CBS and Disney, video streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and YouTube, and social media and e-commerce sites — has a major stake in the outcome of the government’s review of the merger. The question these companies now face is whether their interests are better served by speaking out about it, or by keeping any possible complaints to themselves as they try to negotiate the best deals they can with Comcast. For the time being, almost none are publicly speaking out, partly because they are wary of antagonizing a company with which they do business. Privately, though, media executives are eager to echo Netflix’s concern about the deal, and to cast themselves as victims of the potential megamerger. They use words like “omnivorous” and “rapacious” to describe Comcast, while expressing skepticism on the prospect of the largest cable company buying the second-largest. (New York Times)

Comcast’s move to acquire Time Warner Cable is creating a ripple effect that could transform the pay-TV industry.The latest undulation: The floating of a possible purchase of satellite provider DirecTV by telecom giant AT&T. Among other moves or speculation since Comcast announced its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable two months ago: DirecTV and competitor Dish Network have talked about merging, according to a Bloomberg report; Netflix announced connection deals with Verizon and Comcast; and Apple had reportedly approached Comcast, too. … A common thread to all of these: “A trend to get bigger and amass more market share and be in a better position to dictate terms,” says Phil Swann of (USA Today)