Trump quotes trade group saying Comcast violates antitrust law

Marco Green
November 15, 2018

The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.November 13, 2018 / 12:22 AM GMTBy Claire AtkinsonA cable industry trade group wants the U.S. Justice Department to look into alleged antitrust practices at Comcast - and the call has gotten the attention of President Donald Trump.The American Cable Association, or ACA, which represents small to mid-sized cable systems across the U.S., sent a letter to the Justice Department on Monday asking it to scrutinize Comcast's business practices. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged Delrahim to renew the investigation into Comcast and NBCU ahead of the expiring merger conditions and "consider separating" them if that probe determined that the combo was anticompetitive.

Hulu has come up in the recent big media mergers because all of the major media companies have a stake in it. AT&T owns 10 percent of Hulu through WarnerMedia, but Comcast holds a whopping 30 percent of the company.

The American Cable Association, a group that represents the interests of independent cable operators and several competitive cable overbuilders, has asked the US Department of Justice to open an antitrust investigation into Comcast's ownership of NBCU.

In September, the last of the guidelines expired.

For years, a number of government restrictions attached to the deal had limited Comcast's ability to harm consumers, the letter by the American Cable Association said.

By opening a formal investigation, the DOJ, which has already put Comcast-NBCU on notice, can take the next step to gather facts about the company's activities and ensure consumers and competition are protected.

'ACA expects - and there is every reason for DOJ (Justice Department) to expect - Comcast-NBCU to act on its natural incentives and use its capabilities to harm rivals, unless the government somehow, either through structural or behavioral remedies, deals with them, ' the group said in its letter.

"The video programming and distribution markets are incredibly competitive", the company said in a statement.

The ACA said it was particularly concerned about its members' access to regional sports networks. The ACA cites a recently closed merger between AT&T and Time Warner - which the Trump administration is still appealing - and claims Comcast's market power is a great threat than AT&T-Time Warner. President Trump tweeting about the letter on Monday probably won't hurt its chances of at least being considered. "At Comcast NBCUniversal, we are competing in this dynamic environment the way we always have - by continuing to innovate and conducting our business in compliance with antitrust laws and other legal requirements".

Comcast called the ACA's letter and the call for a DOJ investigation "meritless" and "constitutes an inappropriate attempt to gain leverage in the commercial marketplace".

Disney, announced last week that it will be investing in more Hulu original content in addition to launching its own Disney+ stand-alone streaming service.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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