Broadcasters, Small Cable Operators Join Critics

There was little doubt that AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV would draw opposition from many quarters in media and entertainment.

Media watchdog groups were quick to weigh in with statements of concern about more large-scale media assets passing into fewer hands. The National Assn. of Broadcasters and the American Cable Assn., a trade org for smaller cable operators, were blunt in raising objections to the latest Big Media mega-merger, following Comcast’s agreement to swallow up its closest cable rival, Time Warner Cable, in a $45.2 billion deal that is now in the hands of the feds to approve.

Industry observers said Monday that the AT&T-DirecTV combo will only prolong the scrutiny of Comcast-TW Cable.

“AT&T’s proposed merger with DirecTV demands a hard look in an increasingly consolidated broadband and pay television marketplace,” said NAB exec VP Dennis Wharton in a statement. “It is hard to see how decreasing competitors in the pay TV marketplace – while increasing regulatory restraints on local TV stations – truly benefits consumers.”

The ACA said it was “troubled” by the wave of consolidation sweeping its larger MVPD rivals. The Pittsburgh-based org reps about 850 small and medium-sized cable operators, mostly serving rural areas.

“It is increasingly clear that Congress and the FCC simultaneously need to take a comprehensive look at the market that will exist if all these deals are approved, and to decide whether existing rules that govern the current market are sufficient for the new industry order,” said ACA prexy-CEO Matthew Polka.

“We think many questions need answers, including: Will consumers not served by Comcast, Charter and AT&T be harmed from a marketplace dominated by a few large players, especially when this consolidation is combined with rampant consolidation in the broadcast industry? And will these customers be harmed by mergers that may result in the video content industry as a result of the consolidation in the pay-TV distribution industry? In reviewing these transactions, it is vital that policymakers not lose sight of the bigger picture.”

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