Cable television is a cutthroat business. How cutthroat it is allowed to be is another matter, as is how those rules are respected. Years ago, Comcast ruffled feathers when it acquired NBCUniversal. Fast forward to now, and the ruffling has yet to stop.
According to cable companies, Comcast is hurting its rivals, and the smaller companies have taken action. A lobby group comprised of 700 smaller TV and broadcast companies recently asked the Department of Justice to investigate, per Ars Technica. The group, which is the American Cable Association, sent a letter to the DOJ's Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Makan Delrahim. So, what is Comcast allegedly doing to its rivals?
According to the press release by the lobby group, they want Comcast-NBCU to be investigated for its dominating control over cable, TV stations, and regional sports networks. They claim Comcast's control of these media outlets is being exerted in some of the United States' largest local markets.
The American Cable Association's members have vowed to cooperate in assisting in the investigation entirely. According to the group, this assistance will include their members providing information on Comcast-NBCU's practices. When the deal for Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal was granted by the US government in 2011, certain conditions were put in place, but, as of 2018, those conditions have since expired.
While the Department of Justice opted not to extend the conditions surrounding Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal, they did put a measure in place. The DOJ stated that it would continue monitoring developments regarding the company's handling of TV programming and distribution. Hence, the lobby's voices and concerns are in a realistic place to be heard.
Since their headline-making request, the Department of Justice has yet to grant the lobby group's wish. So, time will tell if an investigation gets underway. Like any suspenseful television series, those paying attention to this story will have to stay tuned. It has yet to have its ending written.
Talk of a potential probe into Comcast comes as many high-profile mergers have made headlines, including AT&T and Time Warner Inc.'s. In another attention-receiving move, Disney made a startling announcement of its own in late 2017: its plans to purchase 21st Century Fox. Following its own bid, Comcast ended up not making another against Disney for ownership of Fox.
In its press release, The American Cable Association said that Comcast poses a larger threat to competition than it did in 2011. Comcast has responded to the allegations, and they offered a comprehensive denial to the claim.
The company shot back with their own statement. They contend that they are doing business the same way they always have. Adding that they have been in continuous "compliance with antitrust laws," along with "other legal requirements."