Consumer access to online television programming is just getting under way, but according to the New York Times, a combined Comcast and NBC Universal would have the power and motivation to smother it – and is calling for strong binding preventative conditions if the merger is to be approved.
In an editorial, the newspaper said that the recent flap between Comcast and Level 3 over charges for the distribution of Netflix content prove the point.
“Online TV is particularly vulnerable,” wrote NYT. “Unlike cable, online providers are not covered by program access rules that force networks to provide their programs on reasonable terms. Companies like Netflix and Hulu — which is owned by several TV networks, including NBC — get shows from TV networks and movie studios and distribute them on somebody else’s broadband.”
NYT says that the ability of consumers to acquire what they want, when they want, online could provide incentive to cease paying Comcast for its programming platforms, and that provides ample motivation for Comcast to stifle online distribution platforms.
“If the merger between Comcast and NBC is to be approved, these tactics must be put off limits,” concluded NYT. “The merged company must be made to provide content not only to rival cable systems but also to Internet-only rivals, on reasonable terms. And it should also commit, in a legally binding way, to offer reasonably priced broadband subscriptions independent of its TV bundles.”