AT&T-DirecTV merger may provide much needed cover for Comcast

As it seeks to combine the number-one and -two pay TV and Internet service providers, is Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) getting help from the other big media merger currently taking place--AT&T's (NYSE: T) proposed $49 billion takeover of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV)?

As Bloomberg explains it, the approval of its deal will give AT&T the scale it would need to compete with a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), thus relieving the anxiety of federal regulators.

"This merger will improve Comcast's chances," University of Iowa law professor Herbert Hovenkamp told Bloomberg. "What you want to do in a merger case is show that there are other competitors out there and as a result any opportunity to behave anti-competitively is going to be disciplined by this other competitor."

Then again, there's also a viewpoint that the AT&T-DirecTV deal could harm Comcast's regulatory chances by making lawmakers anxious about industry power concentration in general.

"The government has to decide if they want to have few players in the market or more players," Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a lawyer at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, told Bloomberg.

From the perspective of news media coverage, at least, the just-announced AT&T-DirecTV deal doesn't seem to have distracted attention away from Comcast's TWC takeover plan, which was announced in February.

For example, news that Comcast is now employing 40 D.C. lobbying firms to champion its position proliferated across the Memorial Day weekend headlines. This, even though AT&T will likely spend as much, or more, on lobbying and various political contributions this year.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story
- read this NPR Marketplace story

Special Report: AT&T and DirecTV: Complete coverage

Related links:
Moffett: AT&T-DirecTV deal will get done, but not without regulatory 'perspiration'
ACA, NAB question growing industry consolidation in wake of AT&T-DirecTV merger news
Protest mars Comcast shareholder meeting; Sen. Franken seeks clarity on net neutrality abidance

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