Cuban: Google, Apple Are the Gatekeepers

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban says the dominant video players in the media space are now Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. In testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy & Consumer Rights on Dec. 7, he went to bat for the AT&T-Time Warner Inc. last week as a means to assail that stronghold. Here is his argument, from prepared testimony.

Delivering content to consumers in this app-driven world is not easy; it is very expensive and difficult.

Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook are five of the seven most valuable companies by market cap in the world. All have established their dominant positions in the app and content worlds by making important, strategic content acquisitions.

That is exactly what the Time Warner acquisition is for AT&T, an important, strategic content acquisition.

Alone, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for either AT&T or Time Warner to compete with any of the companies I’ve mentioned.

Together, it will be still be difficult, but a combined entity at least gives them a chance to battle the dominant players in the marketplace and increase consumer choice and competition for consumer attention.

I would also like to point out one other important element of consumer choice that an AT&T and Time Warner merger would improve. Each of the largest content companies I have mentioned so far — Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple — present much if not all of their content algorithmically.

As a Facebook user, I don’t get to pick what content I get to see in my news feed. I can try to influence it, but Facebook algorithms control what I see. In the future, it won’t be algorithms that choose what we see, our choices will be driven by some form of artificial intelligence learning from trillions of disparate inputs.

Meanwhile, for those of us who still enjoy our TV the old-fashioned way — on our couch, cold beverage in one hand and remote in the other — there is a lot to be said for having a company that can afford to continue to offer us that choice. As much of a geek as I am, I like having the choice of searching through a programming guide to see what’s on rather than an algorithm telling me what I should watch.

I think a lot of consumers would like to see that choice continue as well.