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Discovery raises issues over Comcast-Time Warner merger

MUMBAI: Executives at Discovery Communications, which owns channels like Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC, have met with FCC officials to express their concerns about the proposed merger of cable giant Time Warner and Comcast.

Discovery representatives discussed a number of critical issues the Commission should pay careful attention to as it considers whether the proposed merger is in the public interest.

They said that since a merged Comcast/TWC, which would have at least 30 million pay-TV customers, 10 million more than any other competitor, the combined company could use its enhanced position to impose prices, terms and conditions on programmers that are overly favourable to the MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor).

Other issues include interfering with the developing use of alternative content viewing devices and services, imposing broader ‘most favoured nation’ clauses (MFN) in agreements with programmers, obtaining an unfair information advantage over programmers in carriage negotiations and in the advertising realm by refusing to share set-top box (STB) data with programmers, and exercising substantial control over both the national and local ad sales markets.

Comcast is not only the nation’s largest pay-TV company but it is also one of the largest TV programmers with interests in broadcast networks, local affiliates, multiple cable channels, 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 pointed out.