With Comcast conceding yesterday that it’s in the “advanced stages” of prepping a bid for select 21st Century Fox assets, the American Cable Association has signaled that it will try to get in the way of such an all-cash acquisition.
“Comcast/NBCU’s owning these assets is even more harmful,” said Matthew Polka, president and CEO of the ACA, in a statement. "Comcast already has the incentive and ability to leverage NBCU programming to harm consumers and competition. What’s more, the conditions the FCC once used to rein in Comcast/NBCU’s propensity for bad acts have expired. As a result, Comcast can keep raising the price for consumers for its television, sports, and cable programming by threatening to withhold all of this programming at once. And, by being able to carry NBCU programming at more favorable rates and terms than it charges rivals, Comcast can also harm its competition to totally dominate the market.
“If Fox agrees to sell to Comcast, these problems get only worse because the combined company would own the vast majority of regional sports networks (RSNs) across the country and increase its roster of popular national programming networks,” Polka added. “ACA will join with consumers and others fighting against higher prices and anticompetitive practices to stop such a deal.”
In December, Comcast’s mostly stock bid of $60 billion for a large portion of 21st Century Fox assets was rejected by Fox management, headed by Rupert Murdoch, in favor of a $52 billion all-stock offer from The Walt Disney Company.
But earlier this month, it was reported that Comcast secured a $60 billion bridge loan from its creditors and is closely following an upcoming court decision that will determine if AT&T can buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion. Should AT&T get the green light without orders of a major, deal-breaking divestment, sources close to Comcast have reportedly said it will move once again on Fox.
“In view of the recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox, Inc. in preparation for their upcoming shareholder meetings to consider the acquisition of Fox by Disney, Comcast Corporation confirms that it is considering, and is in advanced stages of preparing, an offer for the businesses that Fox has agreed to sell to Disney (which do not include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company and certain other assets),” read a Comcast statement released Wednesday morning.