Friday, March 12, 2010

Could Retrans Affect the Comcast-NBC Merger?

As the FCC and DOJ review the planned merger of NBC and Comcast, MSOs and others are seeking guidance on retrans rules. "According to a copy of a letter being sent to the House and Senate Commerce Committees from Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Dish, DirecTV, the American Cable Association and others, cable and satellite operators want the committees to take a new look at the Cable Act and retransmission consent in light of what they say is the current imbalance in favor of broadcasters and a "broken system" in need of repair... Also signing on to the letter were Charter, Insight, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Bright House Network, and OPASTCO, the small telco lobby."

So what is most interesting about this above quote. Not who is not included in this letter. Comcast is not taking part in this request. And it is because they do not want to further rock the boat. But a long shadow hangs over these merger proceedings precisely because of ABC and Cablevision, and in the next few months, ABC and Time Warner Cable. And how easy we forget that at midnight at the end of last year, Fox was ready to be pulled off of Time Warner Cable.

Technology and economics have changed the model of "free TV". Yet, every broadcast network owns cable nets too. For ABC, its sports is managed by ESPN; for NBC, its news comes from MSNBC. CBS spun off its Viacom properties but still owns College Sports Network and Showtime. Public interest though must still be considered if broadcast nets are also available over the air. Cable companies haven't built converter boxes to work effortlessly to switch from an antennae to cable. They built the mousetrap and we must figure out how to work with it or around it.

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