Comcast’s Cohen: Sinclair-Tribune merger would help and hurt us

Comcast’s top lobbyist David L. Cohen said the merger is very likely to be approved under a deal-friendly Trump Administration.

The proposed $3.9 billion megamerger of station-owning giants Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media will put upward pressure on broadcast retransmission fees that will be “good and bad” for Comcast, the cable company’s top regulatory executive said. 

Speaking in an interview that will air this weekend on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators,” Comcast’s top lobbyist, David L. Cohen, said the merger is very likely to be approved under a deal-friendly Trump Administration and that it will very likely lead to increases in retrans fees. 

“I think having that large a bloc of local broadcast affiliates, it almost inevitably [will] put significant upward pressure on retransmission consent fees, which are the No. 1 driver of increases in cable prices for consumers these days,” Cohen said.

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This, of course, will be bad for consumers. But by implying that there will be some “good” to the leveraged pricing increases, Cohen seemed to be acknowledging that Comcast’s NBCUniversal division will benefit directly from higher retrans pricing. 

As for the Sinclair-Tribune merger itself, Cohen seemed to cast doubt that regulators will stand in the way. 

“Overall, this president and this administration is likely less hostile to horizontal growth or even vertical growth in the telecom space and elsewhere,” he said. 

“I don’t think that’s a license for ‘anything goes,’” Cohen noted, adding that there’s “pretty clearly going to be less hostility and a greater willingness to allow the market to work.”

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