Comcast NBCU deal conditions will probably be extended if AT&T loses its Time Warner case, former DOJ staffer predicts

comcast
(Comcast)

If the Justice Department should prevail in its case against AT&T to stop the conglomerate from acquiring Time Warner Inc., look for the government to also stop the sunsetting of deal conditions imposed on Comcast in 2011 when it acquired NBCUniversal.

So says Gene Kimmelman, known as the DOJ’s “secret weapon” on antitrust when he worked for the agency during the Obama Administration, who now serves as president and CEO of consumer group Public Knowledge. 

“I don’t think anyone saw seven years ago exactly how online video would develop as a competitor to cable,” Kimmelman told the Wall Street Journal. “There are numerous reasons to think the DOJ might want adjustments to the consent decree, if not a more severe structural remedy.”

FREE DAILY NEWSLETTER

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceVideo!

The Video industry is an ever-changing world where big ideas come along daily. Cable, Media and Entertainment, Telco, and Tech companies rely on FierceVideo for the latest news, trends, and analysis on video creation and distribution, OTT delivery technologies, content licensing, and advertising strategies. Sign up today to get news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

The last of Comcast’s NBCU deal conditions are set to sunset in September. Kimmelman and others are wondering how the DOJ would be able to justify stopping the vertical merger of a distributor like AT&T with a content company like Time Warner Inc., while letting Comcast run off scot-free with a very similar deal. 

RELATED: Comcast-NBCU deal conditions should be extended, Sen. Blumenthal says

In fact, as WSJ noted, the DOJ case has severe implications across industries, with the agency previously opposed mainly to horizontal mergers only. 

In December, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked the U.S. Attorney General’s Office Antitrust Division to investigate Comcast’s compliance with conditions laid out in 2011. Blumenthal, a veteran critic of the pay TV industry, has also asked the Attorney General to hold off on sunsetting the merger conditions, which are set to expire later next year. 

“Over the past six years the Comcast-NBCU acquisition has been roundly criticized by experts who argue that it has caused anti-competitive harm despite the conditions that were imposed on it,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division. 

Suggested Articles

Verizon's Stream TV device, for now, doesn't support Netflix.

Disney+ finally made its debut this week and now it’s a whole new world for streaming services in the U.S.

The wide proliferation of different streaming services has led to a rebundling trend that Apple could soon follow.