[opendtv] Re: Does Netflix/Comcast Deal Remove Obstacle To TWC Merger? - Forbes

  • From: Cliff Benham <flyback1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:59:27 -0500

Comcast wants to own it all. Not only will they stream netflix at faster rates they will also increase the size of their subscriber base once they acquire TWC so THEY CAN THEN CHARGE MORE MONEY FOR WATCHING TELEVISION ALREADY FULL OF COMMERCIALS. SCREW THEM.
Did I mention that they will then charge higher rates?


On 2/24/2014 10:30 AM, Craig Birkmaier wrote:
And the plot thickens!

Looks like Comcast wants to play nice with Netflix to help lube the
Political process to get the TW merger approved.



  Does Netflix/Comcast Deal Remove Obstacle To TWC Merger?

Comcast announced a deal that improves the quality of the online
streaming that Netflix delivers to its 30 million U.S. subscribers. And
that deal could remove one of several obstacles to regulatory approval
of its $45 billion proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable

Unfortunately, the terms of the deal are not clear. Thanks to the
popularity of shows like /House of Cards/, Netflix accounts for roughly
30% of broadband traffic. Prior to cutting the deal with Comcast,
Netflix got access to Comcast through so-called content distribution
networks (CDNs).

Netflix has three ways to deliver content. According to StreamingMedia
these include “Content delivered inside last mile networks via Netflix’s
Open Connect program, third party CDNs like Level 3 and Limelight
Networks </companies/limelight-networks/>, and servers Netflix controls
outside the last mile.” And according to the /Wall Street
<http://www.forbes.com/wall-street/> Journal/, these CDNs also include
Cogent Communications

And this arrangement has reduced service quality for Netflix streaming
media customers. “In recent months, Netflix had reported that delivery
speed of its content to Comcast subscribers had declined by more than
25% — resulting in frequent interruptions and delays for customers
trying to stream television shows and movies delivered through Netflix,”
according to the /New York Times/

The terms of the deal between Comcast and Netflix are not clear. But
it appears that Comcast will connect directly with Netflix — which will
mean that CDNs like Level 3 and Limelight Networks will no longer be
getting the same fees from Netflix.

Simply put, Netflix will pay Comcast to stream its content at a
specified level of service — through what is known as a Service Level
Agreement (SLA).

Is Netflix paying more and will it pass those higher costs on to
consumers? The answer depends on whether the amount it is paying Comcast
is greater than what it saves by not paying the CDNs. /StreamingMedia/
said, “While I don’t know the price Comcast is charging Netflix, I can
guarantee you it’s at the fair market price for transit in the market
today and Comcast is not overcharging Netflix like some have implied.”

Although it is unclear whether they will be enforced in the case of the
Comcast/TWC deal, the U.S. still has antitrust laws on its books. One of
the key principles of those laws is that competition is good because it
leads to ever improving products and services for consumers. And that
improvement should take two forms: better quality and lower prices.

And by that measure, market share leader Comcast itself is already
failing. After all, as I wrote on February 19
is the worst when it comes to customer service and its prices are rising
several times faster than the rate of inflation. TWC — number two in
market share — is nearly as bad when it comes to service quality.

And combining these two will certainly lead to greater economic power
when it comes to negotiating with content providers who seek access to
Comcast’s platform which will control half the market if the deal goes

All that bargaining leverage could force companies like Viacom, CBS, and
Disney to pay less to Comcast. But there is nothing from stopping those
content providers from demanding that advertisers pay more to access
consumers — and for advertisers to pass this higher cost onto consumers
by raising prices and/or reducing the size of what it sells to consumers
while keeping the price the same.

Moreover, with less competition there is little incentive for a much
bigger Comcast to innovate or to tamp down its price increases. I
seriously doubt that Comcast will reduce its R&D expenditures and pass
the money onto consumers in the form of lower prices. Instead, that
money could go back to shareholders in the form of dividends or share

But one obstacle to the merger before the deal between Netflix and
Comcast was the possibility that Comcast would use its market power to
stifle upstarts.

The deal between Netflix and Comcast does not say anything about how
Comcast might try to thwart the likes of Hulu Plus, Aereo, and Roku HD.
But it does suggest that Comcast will not try to harm Netflix’s efforts
to deliver its content to consumers.

However, it does remain to be seen whether Comcast will impose overage
fees for all the extra bandwidth consumers use for online streaming. For
example, in Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi, Comcast is testing
overage fees ($10 for every 50 gigabytes (GB) over the allotted 300GB.

The evidence that Comcast’s proposed merger with TWC will hurt consumers
seems compelling. There is no reason to think that the merged companies’
service quality would rise from the cellar or that its price increases
would reverse. Nor is there any reason to think that the deal will not
make it harder for upstarts trying to deliver consumers better quality
at a lower price.

But the deal between Netflix and Comcast — if it can deliver on
demanding SLAs — does suggest that Comcast is not set on wiping out Netflix.

Nor does it hurt the deal’s prospects that Comcast has given money to
Congress. As the /New York Times/
“91 of the 97 members of Congress who signed a letter in 2011
supporting the Comcast NBC merger received contributions
during that same election cycle from the company’s political action
committee or executives.”

Is Comcast wielding that clout as it seeks approval of the deal to buy
TWC? Do antitrust laws still matter?

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