Thursday, June 5, 2014

Merger Mania Adds Another Pair

The FCC will have a busy Summer and perhaps the rest of the year too.  Not only do they get to review the Comcast Time Warner Cable and ATT DirecTv deals, they may also get the proposed Sprint T-Mobile merger as well.  Quick, hire more staff, the FCC will have their plate full.  They may have seen their webaite explode after the John Oliver call to write them regarding net neutrality.  And should a cable network consider announcing a possible acquisition target, the FCC might have to throw up their hands in defeat.

But back to the proposed plan for Sprint to acquire T-Mobile.  Facing a communication and wireless industry industry dominated by two major players, Verizon and ATT, the number 3 and number 4 players were no match.  Yes, they created choice for the consumer, but couldn't match for service and coverage.  And while a merger reduces the number of competitors, it actually helps to make them a more formidable competitor as a much larger number 3 wireless provider.  And frankly, they need all the help they can get. 

Both ATT and Verizon offer more capabilities; ATT with a DirecTv and their U-verse product, have a firm cable and broadband base and Verizon with FIOS has the same.  Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile bring that business to their mix; they benefit only by increased size.  One might hope that a future partnership with Dish could then set them up nicely and make it an even stronger competitive option. 

Some are concerned that the FCC won't like this Sprint T-Mobile pairing but I believe it is in the interest in the economy that it be approved, as should each of the above deals.  The industry has always been an oligopoly; size continues to matter to make these business able to continue to compete. 

Music Is The New Black

With all the buzz of video streaming and platforms like Netflix competing rigorously in the media space, audio has been pushed aside a bit.  Well, it seems it may now be their turn given the recent acquisition of Beats by Apple.  Now music streaming is the hot commodity and competing in this space the place to be.  While downloading music is nice, the cost to own can add up; a music subscription service on the other hand provides a steady diet of new and old music at a low price. 

For Apple, the Beats subscription service may not be the largest, but it had a cache and pool of talent that Apple wanted to own.  According to reports, Google is also interested in owning a larger piece of the music streaming business.  "Some folks speculate that Google’s best option would be to snap up Spotify, which has a $4 billion valuation, 10 million paying subscribers — and a rapidly growing business. It is said to be on track for a fall IPO."  Of course there are other competitors to consider including Pandora and Rhapsody.  Perhaps Sirius would like to extend itself further away from the automobile through acquisition as well.  And Apple may not be done acquiring; music has been a key attribute of their iPod and iPhone brands. 

Where the audio industry, most known as the world dominated by radio, has appeared mature and flat, the rise of digital streaming has fanned the flames of interest.  The iHeart radio app, while free, offers an ad supported way to enjoy your favorite music on these same streaming devices.  Choosing which service to use becomes the consumers challenge.  Download, subscribe, stream, are all options.  For now, music is the hot commodity.