Dish lobbies FCC to block the Comcast-Time Warner deal

Cable Giant Comcast To Acquire Time Warner Cable
POMPANO BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 13: A Comcast truck is seen parked at one of their centers on February 13, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Today, Comcast announced a $45-billion offer for Time Warner Cable. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen told Federal Communications Commission officials this week that they should vote to block Comcast’s $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable.

Dish lobbied the FCC to block the deal, which the company’s chairman claimed would be “anti-competitive” and potentially harmful to consumers as well as to smaller rivals such as Dish, according to a filing with the FCC released Wednesday.

“The pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied,” the company told the FCC.

Dish added that there “do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger.” Comcast has repeatedly said that its purchase of Time Warner, which was announced in February, will not lead to a reduction in competition in the cable television market, claiming that the two companies’ services do not overlap in any cities. In an effort appease regulators, Comcast also agreed to divest 3.9 million customers in a deal with Charter Communications in April.

In addition to the merger providing consumers with fewer options, Dish told the FCC that “a combined Comcast/TWC will be able to exercise its enormous size to leverage programming content in anti-competitive ways. It will be able to extract lower prices from programmers, which, in turn, will force programmers to extract even higher rates from smaller pay-TV providers like Dish in order to compensate the programmers for lost revenue.”

In response to the Dish meeting with the FCC, a Comcast spokeswoman said in a statement: “As our filings have shown, every market we operate in is highly competitive. Dish has long been one of our most vigorous competitors, and unlike us has a national footprint available in tens of millions of more homes than a combined Comcast –Time Warner Cable. Dish not wanting stronger competitors isn’t surprising and it isn’t new.”

During its meeting with the FCC, which included FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Dish also took the time to attack the pending $48.5 billion sale of DirecTV to AT&T, a deal that Dish said would allow those two companies “to leverage programming content, to the potential detriment of consumers.” (Don’t forget: Dish itself was actually reported to have approached DirecTV about the two companies merging earlier this year.)

AT&T claimed last month that its deal for DirecTV would actually lower prices for consumers by presenting them with additional options for bundled television and Internet service. Both the FCC and the Justice Department are tasked with determining whether the Comcast-Time Warner and AT&T-DirecTV deals pass regulatory muster, or whether they would reduce competition and consumer options in their respective markets.

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