Comcast, Time Warner Cable Merger Would Be a Win for Program Diversity (Guest Column)

Comcast Time Warner Merger

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee wrote the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission recently, asking them to consider how the proposed combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable would impact independent programmers and our choices on TV.

As the CEO of one of the leading independent programmers (Ovation) and someone who has been in the indie business for many years, I can say the transaction is an unequivocal win for anyone who values diversity and new perspectives on TV. Here’s why.

First, the proposed deal will bring more quality options to more viewers, on better, faster networks. Our experience at Ovation shows why. Seven years ago, Comcast recognized that its channel lineup lacked programming focused on the arts. In the face of changing industry economics, regulatory pressures and a vast recession, the company took a chance and helped us launch Ovation. Since then, Comcast has added millions of homes to our overall distribution – over 3 million in the last three years, including important markets such as Miami, Atlanta and Chicago. Comcast has shown that it supports those networks that fill gaps in what’s available today and have the necessary vision, expertise and resources.

Second, Comcast’s technological leadership has also bolstered our network – and those of the many other independents that it carries. Like many of our peers, Ovation was added to the Xfinity on Demand service in 2012, extending our reach to more than 25 million households. Since then we have also landed on Comcast’s mobile TV Everywhere platform, an innovation that helps Comcast satisfy its customers demand for anywhere, anytime video and that helps us stay relevant, available, and cutting edge for our viewers, truly bringing our “art everywhere” motto to life.

Third, while Comcast is a tough negotiator that demands that anyone seeking carriage prove their value and present a workable business model that makes sense, it is also a fair partner, paying competitive rates and expanding distribution when warranted. And unlike other MPVDs, Comcast doesn’t make a practice of dropping networks in carriage fee disputes.

This track record belies the critics who claim that a larger Comcast will be some kind of gatekeeper shutting out independent voices and extorting networks for access to its subscriber base. Comcast is already large and serves valuable markets, and it has never engaged in any such market abuses. Fundamentally, programmer/distributor relationships are a two-way street with value running in both directions. Comcast understands that, and in my experience, evaluates its programmer relationships in that light.

In short, Comcast’s leadership in supporting independent programmers has been second to none among multichannel video program distributors. And because Comcast and TWC don’t operate in the same markets, the transaction merely represents a trade up for existing TWC customers to the provider that has done more for independents than anyone.

Stories like Ovation’s are repeated in the many comments that independent programmers have filed with the FCC in support of this transaction. This support is no surprise, since Comcast has the best record of any pay-TV provider in launching and supporting independents on its system. As is widely known, since the close of their joint venture with NBCUniversal, Comcast has helped to launch four new minority-owned cable networks and added 20 new independents to its system all told.

Comcast has been a premium partner to Ovation and one of the best to independent programmers in general. And this deal is a gain for our networks, our viewers and emerging independent voices.

Charles Segars is CEO of Ovation.

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  1. Good luck in 2015 and I hope that the merger will work out

  2. Stephen says:

    This is straight-up propaganda and Variety should seek a strong counterpoint to this nonsense. Comcast and the other cable companies represent regional monopolies that exploit labor (directors, writers, et al). When Comcast came to Hollywood, they pledged they would play by the rules, but they lied. Case in point, E!’s Fashion Police paid writers below minimum wage with no overtime nor benefits, nor proper credit.

    • I should be shock that Comcast/Time Warner Cable made all kind of promise to get what they wanted. Let face it, more cable company in New York City have disappear or worst become part of the Time Warner Cable or Cablevision.I don’t see FCC stopping the merger. I wanted to know who I will be mailing my bill to either TWC or Comcast or what kind of name that the company lawyer will decide.

  3. Matthew says:

    You made it very clear why this merger is good for your company. I’m guessing TWC didn’t offer you a contract, so having Comcast buy them would do wonders for you. Too bad decreased competition only helps people like you. It hurts everybody else. Comcast keeps raising rates faster than inflation, and those of us living in areas without a choice have to grin and bear it if we want Internet service.

  4. How much did you get for writing this lengthy corporate posterior kissing essay?

  5. boo says:

    Says the stooge for the cable industry. This would be like sleeping with the devil. Comcast has the worst customer service and merging with Time Warner would limit customer choice and reduce competition. I only see bad things happening if this comes to pass

  6. Dunstan says:

    There are already far too many channels; most subscribers to satellite or cable watch less than 20 channels regularly. That’s a fact borne out by numerous studies. Mr. Segars is entitled to his very biased opinion but the plain truth is he fails to address the overwhelming concern of regulators and customers: no one company should control so much access. Period. I’m not a pay TV subscriber and never will be. It’s a colossal waste of money. I hope this merger dies on the vine, sooner than later.

    • I am not holding my breath about the merger because the FCC won’t do anything to stop it .

      • Again I type this that I am not holding my breath when two cable will bring program diversity. Good luck in 2015.

      • I put on my reading glass when I read about program diversity. I will believe about diversity when I turn on my tv and see it. FCC won’t stop it. I could be wrong but it seem that FCC and the two cable company are becoming two close together. I still remember writer out my money order to one cable one month and when I got the next new bill that my cable company was take over by Time Warner Cable. I wanted to know what will Comcast/Time Warner Cable will be calling itself after the takeover.

  7. GHD says:

    This is a joke, right?

    I can’t wait for these companies to crumble into the sea.

    All we need is some decent IP providers so that these cable companies can finally F off and die.

    I cut the cord a year ago and I couldn’t be happier not throwing $100 a month at these goons. Netflix, Hulu, hbo go: that is the future.

  8. jhs39 says:

    To recap–the CEO of an independent cable net that Comcast invested in and carries claims that the merger of Comcast and TWC will be a boon to independent programming without offering a convincing reason why. As far as I can tell his argument is that Comcast is a better company than TWC so the merger of the two companies will inevitably create a better company than allowing TWC to exist independently would–but another way of looking at his argument is that he has a vested interest in the merger because it will bring his cable net to more markets. If you have a brand new arts start-up channel right now you can try to sell it separately to TWC and Comcast and it’s possible that one or both will buy it. It’s also possible one of the companies will pay more to keep your new channel exclusive to its service. After the merger you only have one company to sell your channel to–and since they know you have no place else to go they can make a take it or leave it low-ball offer. I can definitely see how the merger of TWC and Comcast would be good for the person who wrote this guest column–I don’t see how it is going to increase options for independent programming and that is supposedly what the author was trying to address.

  9. My eye open wide when I read about the merger would be a win for program diversity. Sorry but I will believe it when I see it.

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