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Comcast-TWC Rips Discovery, Netflix in FCC Merger Comments

Would-be partners go on the offensive, calling specific criticism of proposed merger ”self-serving,“ ”patently absurd“

Comcast and Time Warner Cable lit into their opponents Tuesday as the two companies defended their $45 billion merger before the FCC.

In a 139-page public portion of their filing to urge the FCC to approve the deal, the companies said they have demonstrated that the transaction “will deliver substantial public interest benefits and generate no cognizable competitive harms.” They suggested the deal’s opponents have offered little more than “rhetoric” and “unsupported conclusions” compared with the companies’ “extraordinarily robust” evidence that the merger is “strongly in the public interest.”

The two companies then named names.

They accused CenturyLink and Dish Network of “blatantly seeking protection from the forces of fair competition that would benefit consumers”; Discovery, RFD-TV, TheBlaze, and Back9 of attempting to command higher fees and terms “they could not reasonably expect in the competitive marketplace”; and Netflix and Cogent of trying to use the review to pursue objectives that had nothing to do with the transaction.

The two also accused public interest groups of “asserting the same worn and unconvincing theories of harm that they have raised in virtually every industry transaction over the past two decades” and upbraided potential competitors Viamedia, RCN and Comtel for “making half-hearted efforts” to find a link to the transaction so they could achieve “parochial business interests.”

Tuesday was the last day the FCC accepted comments on the deal, the Comcast and TWC remarks being among a number filed in response to earlier statements submitted to the agency by supporters and opponents.

The companies on Tuesday reiterated their view that the deal wouldn’t hurt competition.

Intense competition faced by the companies in the Internet backbone market, they said, would limit Comcast’s ability to deprive access to competing online video delivery services.

The comments further explained that Comcast’s need to grow its broadband service means it lacks incentive to degrade rival video delivery platforms because it needs customers of those services to maintain the growth of its broadband traffic and of NBC.

The companies also dismissed as “patently absurd” Discovery’s concerns that Comcast would use its control of the Internet pipe to limit video competition.

The companies questioned whether Discovery, “the seventh largest cable programmer,” should be speaking to the commission on behalf of “independent  programmers,” but insisted that the evidence refutes the “self-serving claims” of hostile programmers.

“Merely repeating these same, unsubstantiated claims does not make them true,” the two companies said.

Comcast submitted its filing as David L. Cohen, EVP and senior diversity officer, authored his own post supporting the deal.

“We have demonstrated the absence of serious competitive harms arising out of the transaction,” Cohen said in the post. “The record contains serious and compelling legal, factual and economic analyses of the purported competitive and public interest harms of the transaction — and thoroughly and persuasively rebuts every argument that has been raised by opponents of the transaction.”