Depending on the direction the wind blows from, Comcast will adjust its stance, it seems. As the US Congress met to hear the company’s case on the topic of acquiring Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion, Comcast said that this was the only way to compete against the likes of Google.The company also mentioned a list of competitors, including Netflix, Google, AT&T, Verizon and more.
Most importantly, however, Time Warner Cable was now off this list, while not too long ago, it was one of the leading names on it.
Senator Al Franken said during the hearing that back in 2011, when Comcast was arguing why it should be allowed to purchase NBCUniversal, the company said that competition with Time Warner would prevent it from taking unfair advantage of the increased ownership of television content.
In the past few years, no network has risen to really compete with the heavyweights, so taking Time Warner Cable out of the equation leaves Comcast in a position of market dominant.
“Comcast has argued that there's nothing to worry about here because it doesn't compete with Time Warner Cable in any ZIP code… When Comcast wanted to acquire NBCUniversal, Comcast's CEO told this committee not to worry about it because there were still other robust distributors, and he specifically named Time Warner Cable, which would prevent Comcast from setting anti-competitive prices for Comcast content,” said Franken.
He explains that the point at the time was that Comcast couldn’t get away with behaving badly because distributors including Time Warner Cable wouldn’t stand for such actions.
“Later in the hearing, Comcast's CEO also told us, ‘We are not getting any larger in cable distribution here.’ Well, if this deal goes through, Comcast will become larger in cable distribution, and if this deal goes through, Comcast never again will have to negotiate with Time Warner Cable when it comes to setting prices for NBC content. And NBC content, everyone should remember, is 20-some networks,” Franken said, making his position on the matter quite clear.
In recent months, there’s been a lot of discussion on the topic of net neutrality and Comcast has been among the companies accused of not respecting such rules. This happened after Netflix connections became so bad that the company was forced to agree to pay the ISP a hefty fee in order to be able to once more provide quality content to users.
In its defense, Comcast argues that since 2010, the market has changed and evolved significantly and there are now more robust competitors for programming and viewers, including Netflix, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo, without mentioning AT&T and Verizon, DirecTV and Dish.