That this might actually mean something positive for consumers – i.e. don’t squeeze my Roku!
New fears that Big Cable will squash online-video competition has caught the attention of the Justice Department — and is one of several antitrust issues now facing cable giant Comcast Corp.
Investigators have sent the equivalent of civil subpoenas to Comcast, other pay-TV providers, and programmers, in a broad sweep for information about contract provisions related to online video. It’s an industrywide probe.
Comcast’s proposed deal to sell wireless spectrum through a consortium of cable companies and partner Verizon Wireless to market quad-play bundles — wireless phone, wireline phone, Internet, and cable TV — is being analyzed separately by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. Critics say the deal amounts to a business truce between Comcast and Verizon Communications Inc., which controls Verizon Wireless and also competes with Comcast with its FiOS TV and Internet products. Comcast and Verizon officials say that there is no truce and that they still will compete.
In addition, Judge John R. Padova has scheduled for trial in September a class-action antitrust lawsuit that, since late 2003, has been wending its way through federal court in Philadelphia. The suit claims that Comcast clustered its cable systems in the Philadelphia region through swaps with other cable companies, leading to market power and higher prices for consumers.
Legal issues in the three cases are different, and, Comcast officials say, the matters are unrelated. But observers note that a common thread is the company’s willingness to push legal limits when pursuing growth.
Experts say that it’s very early in the online-video investigation, but that the probe seems serious.
“Online television is now getting to the point where it is a real threat to cable companies, and anything the cable companies do to undermine that threat will draw antitrust scrutiny,” said Ankur Kapoor, a partner and antitrust specialist with Constantine Cannon, a New York law firm.