Companies that own local over-air television stations affiliated with major networks ABC, CBS and Fox are concerned that the vertical integration that would result from a merger of Comcast and NBCU would allow rival affiliates of NBC unfair advantages and are seeking conditions on the merger.
According to a Reuters report, CBS Television Network Affiliates Association Chairman Tim Busch fired off a letter to other CBS affiliates, saying, “Our specific concern is that Comcast/NBCU would have incentives to competitively disadvantage and discriminate against non-NBC affiliated stations in terms of Comcast’s cable carriage, retransmission consent negotiations, and advertising and promotion practices.”
Busch’s letter came after talks with ABC and Fox affiliate organizations.
Fox affiliate organization chair Brian Brady said Comcast could provide NBC affiliates with benefits that would put other stations at a disadvantage, according to Bloomberg.
The affiliate organizations provided new ammunition to watchdog Free Press, which was an early opponent of the merger.
“It comes as no surprise that the non-NBC network affiliates are worried about the anticompetitive impact of this unprecedented mega-merger — to them we say, welcome to the club,” said Free Press’s Corie Wright. “The affiliates join a growing roster of industry and public interest groups that fear that Comcast’s takeover of NBC will have disastrous results for competition. Most importantly, it is consumers that will ultimately foot the bill for this deal through diminished choice and ever increasing cable rates. We look forward to the affiliates’ ideas on how to possibly lessen the negative impacts of this merger. But given the threats to competition this merger poses, it is unlikely they can be remedied by anything but an outright rejection of this deal.”