Can Cable Competition Possibly Get Worse? Yes

Proposed merger takes it from 'zero to two times zero,' writes Matthew Yglesias

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 13, 2014 4:45 PM CST

(Newser) – Comcast and Time Warner Cable say their proposed merger into one massive cable company will help consumers. The deal "does not reduce competition in any market or in any way," insists Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Well so what, is a common refrain among analysts—competition is already so terrible that the assertion means little. A sampling:

  • Matthew Yglesias, Slate: "The merger proposed here will in effect turn two medium-size regional monopolists into a big sprawling monopolist. But in terms of consumer-facing competition, you're going from zero to two times zero."

  • Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: This is about more than channel choices. "The more damaging consequence of the cable monopoly is in broadband Internet access, where the power of the cable firms' monopolies is magnified by the lack of practical alternatives to their Internet services." This deal would only make things worse.
  • Daniel Gross, Daily Beast: We're at "peak cable," he writes. Cable giants can't sign up new customers, so instead of innovating, they're taking this "lazy approach." Sure, customers of Comcast and TWC would get some new toys and options. But "the channel lineup won’t change much, reception won’t improve, and the price surely won’t be going down. The whole point of adding more bells and whistles—video-on-demand, DVR-like services—is to get existing customers to pay more."
  • Matthew C. Klein, Crain's Chicago Business: He argues that the deal might help consumers. Cable bills probably won't go down, but this merger would give the resulting company way more bargaining power with the networks, which in turn could keep future price hikes in check.

A Comcast truck in Pittsburgh.
A Comcast truck in Pittsburgh.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
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