Disney-Fox video market power must be ‘fully investigated,’ ACA says

Disney balloons
Image: The Walt Disney Company

Firing what is surely the first of many salvos from the cable industry at the proposed Disney-Fox media megamerger, the American Cable Association called on federal regulators to “fully investigate” the $52.5 billion deal. 

“The Disney-Fox marriage not only will create one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates but will give the combined company control of critical video programming that can be bundled together to harm consumers in local and national markets,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka, in a statement released yesterday.  

Not surprisingly, Polka is concerned about his smaller cable constituents having to negotiate multichannel deals with a behemoth that combines 21st Century Fox’s 21 regional sports networks with ESPN and its cadre of collegiate-conference-focused RSNs.

Polka also signaled anxiety about Hulu, a spear Disney hopes to sharpen in its battle with Netflix and Amazon.

“In particular, Disney-Fox will become the largest holder of key local and national sports programming rights. It also will gain control of more national cable programming networks, and a significant stake in Hulu—an increasingly popular online distribution service,” Polka added. These assets will be in addition to Disney’s national broadcast network (ABC) and multiple owned and operated ABC television stations. Because the combined company post-transaction could leverage these programming assets to undermine competition to the detriment of consumers, federal agencies must fully investigate the proposed combination to ensure that it neither violates antitrust laws nor is inconsistent with the public interest.”

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For its part, the cable industry’s other key lobbying group, the NCTA, has seemingly been focused on the FCC’s decidedly unpopular decision to roll back Title II internet regulations. The group has not commented on the proposed Disney purchase.