Discovery Not Afraid of Sharks Or Comcast; Comes Out Against Merger

29906170001_2588222626001_thumb-596118We told you last week that even though the initial public commenting period for the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger has ended, the FCC is still talking to various media companies — including Discovery, operator of seemingly countless cable channels — to get their insights on the deal. Now the details of Discovery’s anti-merger arguments are being made public.

A recent filing [PDF] from Discovery quickly recounts the points discussed in a Sept. 3 meeting between FCC officials and the media giant.

Among the key concerns raised by Discovery during that meeting:
1. That a merged Comcast/TWC, which would have at least 30 million pay-TV customers — 10 million more than any other competitor — would use this new “enhanced position” to “impose prices, terms and conditions on programmers that are overly favorable” to Comcast.

Basically, Discovery is arguing that Comcast could tell content providers that if they want to reach the nation’s largest cable audience, they’ll have to charge Comcast a lower price.

2. That the combined Comcast/TWC Voltron would include broader “most favored nation” clauses in its contracts with programmers.

These clauses effectively guarantee that Comcast gets the best available deal and can cover everything from which channels are bundled in tiers together to what can appear online, where, and when.

3. That Comcast would “interfere with the developing use of alternative content viewing devices and services.”

Comcast is not only the nation’s largest pay-TV company, it’s also one of the largest TV programmers, with broadcast networks, local affiliates, multiple cable channels, and home video syndication and distribution. It has an interest in restricting the success of services and devices that compete with established Comcast/NBC businesses, and can use its position as the nation’s largest broadband provider to do so.

Discovery is probably the largest media company to publicly raise concerns about the Comcast/TWC merger. Many programmers, studios, and cable channels have reportedly expressed these same worries but have refrained from going public out of fear that doing so would damage their existing relationship with Comcast.

It’s basically like Big Brother or Survivor, where you tell Bob or Jill that you have their backs while secretly telling other players that Bob or Jill is crazy and has to go.


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