×

Comcast’s David Cohen: Merger With Time Warner Cable ‘Not a Very Scary Story’

Comcast exec VP David L. Cohen defended Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, saying that it is “a lot less scary, a lot less large and a lot less complicated than some people would like to make it.”

“When you think about it, in the video space, this is not a horizontal deal,” he said in an interview for C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” series, airing on Saturday. “We don’t compete with Time Warner Cable anywhere. There isn’t a consumer in America who has a choice between buying Comcast products and Time Warner Cable products.”

Cohen noted that the combined companies would still command less than 30% of the market share for cable and less than 40% of the wireline broadband, and “as low as 20%” including wireless Internet.

“National share and broadband, I am not sure what that matters. The issue is local share,” he said. “In no local market will there be any less choice in broadband after the transaction than before the transaction.”

Opponents have raised the question of how big is too big, as the merger would mean the No. 1 cable and broadband provider will be merging with the No. 2 cable provider. Even though they don’t compete in the same market, critics have warned that Comcast would have, among other things, greater power when it comes to negotiating for programming.

“A lot of the opposition from this group of people who oppose everything is based upon ‘Big is bad,’ and whenever you get big it is a bad thing,” Cohen said. “But sometimes big is a bad thing. I acknowledge that. But sometimes big is really important, really necessary and really good. And that would tend to be in high capital expenditure industries, in industries where innovation is fast moving and where you need a lot of investment in R&D and innovation to keep pace. And that is our industry.”

Cohen will represent Comcast when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the merger on April 9.

The committee has oversight over the Department of Justice, which is reviewing the merger. Comcast also must obtain approval from the FCC, which will open a file for public comment. Comcast is expected to file a statement with the agency in the first or second week of April outlining why it is in the public interest.

The merger has drawn some high-profile opponents, including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the Writers Guild of America and some public interest groups, and the CEOs of DirecTV and Dish Network have been critical of the transaction. The latter two companies have reportedly held talks about their own merger.

But Cohen dismissed the opposition so far as coming “from the same group of people” who have opposed previous media mergers over the past 20 years, with many of their “sky is going to fall” predictions “discredited and disproven in multiple transactions.

“I think they are equally untrue today,” he said. “And I must say, I have been struck by the absence of rational,  knowledgeable voices in this space coming out in opposition or even raising serious questions about the transaction, unlike AT&T and T-Mobile, where you had credible and serious economists, antitrust experts and antitrust lawyers saying from the outset saying ‘What is AT&T thinking here?’ [That was] a No. 1 competitor acquiring No. 4 competitor in a straight horizontal transaction, absolutely reducing or eliminating consumer choice.”

The proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger was rejected by regulators before in 2011 before regulators scrapped their plans.

Cohen’s connections in Washington have come under scrutiny after the merger was announced. Among other things, he was a bundler for President Obama’s reelection campaign, and recently attended a White House state dinner.

Cohen attributed his relationships to political figures to his interest in government and politics.

“I enjoy my relationships with them,” he said. “But having been involved in the political arena,  I know there are no quid pro quos. There are no guarantees. There are no preset expectations. Any good elected official — and I like to believe the many elected officials who are my friends are all great elected officials — are going to make decisions on the merits based on what they believe is the truth and the facts and the law at the time they look at it.”

Cohen also dismissed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ recent call for a more sweeping set of net neutrality principles, ones that would cover so-called “peering” arrangements, as “essentially hogwash.” He said that the peering marketplace was “intensely competitive.”

“It has nothing to do with access to the Internet,” he said. “That has nothing to do with net neutrality.”

After striking a deal with Comcast to carry an improved Netflix signal, Hastings groused in a blog post that Comcast and other large ISPs were “extracting a toll because they can.” He was referring to “escalating fees” that Internet providers are charging for interconnection to certain content providers.

Cohen, however, said that what Netflix wanted to make s deal directly with Comcast rather than go through a third party for such peering arrangements, like Level 3 Communications.

He didn’t comment specifically on reports that Apple is in talks with Comcast for some sort of deal, but said that it was an example of “how intensely competitive and fastly evolving the multichannel video space is.”

 

More Biz

  • Frontrunners Emerge As BBC's Tony Hall

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates

    Executive Assistant Preparing Lawsuit Against Ousted Grammy Chief

    In the latest twist in the increasingly bitter exit of Deborah Dugan from the Recording Academy after just five months, the ousted president/CEO is about to face a lawsuit from her former assistant, Claudine Little, who has retained former Harvey Weinstein/ Charlie Walk attorney Patty Glaser to represent her, two sources tell Variety. The news was [...]

  • Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent

    Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent Kew Media Group's Stake In Business

    Two Rivers Media has bought out parent group Kew Media Group’s minority stake in the business. Formed by former STV Productions head Alan Clements in January 2019, the production outfit behind Channel 5’s recent “Susan Hill’s Ghost Story” launched with the backing of Kew, Noble Grossart Investments and Channel 4’s Indie Growth Fund. Noble Grossart [...]

  • Grammy Awards 60th Annual Grammy Awards,

    Recording Academy Paid Millions Annually to Outside Law Firms

    Among the concerns listed in a memo sent to the Recording Academy’s head of HR by president/CEO Deborah Dugan before she was placed on administrative leave Thursday was an item about the organization’s “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal fees to outside law firms, according to sources familiar with the document. According to the most recent 990 [...]

  • Chuck D of Public EnemyGods of

    Public Enemy’s Chuck D Slams Grammys Over Deborah Dugan Ouster

    Chuck D, frontman of Public Enemy — who are receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys next week — posted a long statement on Instagram criticizing the Recording Academy over its sudden ousting of new president/CEO Deborah Dugan yesterday. Dugan, who had been in the job only five months, was placed on administrative leave after [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

  • Deborah Dugan arrives for the 20th

    Deborah Dugan's Recording Academy Ouster Follows Multiple Tussles With Board

    “Change is afoot,” Deborah Dugan said more than once during interviews with Variety in the weeks before her shocking removal from her post as president/CEO of the Recording Academy after just five months on the job. During those conversations, Dugan spoke of changes she planned to make in the Academy’s staffing organization, its Board of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content