Dish's Ergen to FCC: Deny Comcast/TWC Merger

Dish has told the FCC to disallow the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.

In meetings this week with all the commissioners, FCC staffers, and bureau chiefs, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen said the proposed Comcast/TWC deal presented "serious competitive concerns" and "therefore should be denied."

Comcast and TWC have argued to the FCC and Congress that their merger would allow them to be more competitive with national platforms like Dish, but according to FCC documents, Ergen told the FCC assemblage that the combined company would have too much leverage over the "lifeblood of over-the-top video": high-capacity "cable" broadband connections.

Ergen said Comcast/TWC would have three "choke" points it could use to harm competing for video service: the last mile connection, interconnections, and specialized services.

"It will be able to extract lower prices from programmers, which, in turn, will force programmers to extract even higher rates from smaller pay-TV providers like DISH in order to compensate the programmers for lost revenue," Ergen and other Dish execs said. "And a combined Comcast/TWC will have the incentive and ability to restrict programmers’ ability to grant digital rights to competing pay-TV and OTT video providers."

They also talked about competitive concerns with AT&T/DirecTV, saying that deal "will also be able to combine their market power to leverage programming content, to the potential detriment of consumers."

During the meetings, Dish reiterated it was planning to bid in both the upcoming ASW-3 auction and 2015 broadcast incentive auction. It said the latter "offers a win-win for broadcasters to generate revenue and continue to broadcast over the air, while ensuring that consumers will benefit from more robust competition among wireless carriers."

“As our filings have shown, every market we operate in is highly competitive," said Comcast in response. "Dish has long been one of our most vigorous competitors, and unlike us has a national footprint available in tens of millions of more homes than a combined Comcast –Time Warner Cable. Dish not wanting stronger competitors isn’t surprising and it isn’t new.  Any issues regarding NBCUniversal programming and other video services, whether they be traditional or over the top, are already amply covered by pre-existing FCC rules and deal conditions.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.