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David Pushes Would-Be Goliath

WASHINGTON — Comcast executives, led by executive vice president David Cohen, pitched the Time Warner Cable acquisition to Federal Communications Commission members last week in meetings that lasted a couple of days.

Comcast’s take, according to one FCC commissioner, boiled down to no harm, no foul in three key areas:

• No horizontal harms, because the subscriber count would come in under the FCC’s old 30% market cap on an operator’s total subs, which a court threw out.

• No vertical harms, because Comcast has already been there, done that, via the FCC’s conditions on its merger with NBCUniversal; those conditions will extend automatically to the TWC systems when they become Comcast systems.

• No broadband harms, because Comcast is still subject to the FCC’s antiblocking and anti-discrimination rules through 2018 (and likely longer as a condition of the TWC deal, which would then apply those conditions to newly acquired systems as well). And because the broadband market has changed, and regardless of how many broadband subscribers the combined companies will have, the operator is hardly the only high-speed Internet game in town.

The Comcast team also described the combined company as providing a stronger force in the ad market. Cable and satellite companies are looking to compete for targeted local political ads, for example, and the Justice Department has expressed concerns about station joint-sales agreements being anti-competitive. Pitching Comcast as a force in political ad sales might resonate in that space.