Merger Watch: FCC’s Qs for Comcast-TWC; INSP, Broadbus & Layer3’s Take

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At our deadline, comments and petitions to deny Comcast and Time Warner Cable ’s planned merger are still due to the FCC today. The city of L.A. had asked for an extension until at least Sept 8, but the 2 MSOs and Charter oppose the request and the FCC has taken no action. On Thurs, the Media Bureau sent Comcast, TWC and Charter requests for more information—asking for details on everything from the number of customers currently using each company’s TV Everywhere service to any instances in which an MVPD discussed raising a program access complaint. The lengthy list of requests also includes a list of all program carriage requests made to Comcast since Jan 2011 and a map of where all 3 have systems.

The Bureau had some questions specific to each operator, such as its request for all documents from TWC that relate to analysis of the impact of the 2013 CBS dispute. Comments on the proposed transaction are already trickling in ahead of Mon’s deadline. On Thurs, INSP chmn/CEO David Cerullo gave his blessing to a deal that some have argued will hurt independent programmers. “Although we are now viewed in a universe of more than 80 million homes, as an independent network INSP has faced an uphill battle in gaining distribution,” Cerullo wrote in his letter. “However, one significant reason for our substantial growth has been the consistent support we have received from Comcast.” During Hill testimony, some other independent nets told different tales, with RFD-TV founder Patrick Gottsch warning that consolidation threatens choice in rural independent programming. On the technology side, Broadcom, which collaborated with Comcast on X1, praised the deal and the MSO’s track record for driving innovation and promoting competition.

Not surprisingly, vocal opponents Consumers Union and Common Cause have filed a petition to deny the merger. “This merger would harm competition, impede innovation by online video distributors, threaten innovation in equipment and platforms, and reduce the diversity of information sources and services to the public, all to the detriment of consumers and contrary to the public interest,” the groups said. Also weighing in to the docket is Layer3 TV, which bills itself as a next-generation cable TV service. Led by former Broadbus founder Jeff Binder, the company says it will offer a package of live and on-demand programming directly to consumers. Layer3 wants the FCC to consider conditions that would protect competitors when it comes to programming access, peering and IP distribution (no specific conditions were discussed).

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