Comcast is acquiring Time Warner Cable, and has been publishing consistent and emphatic statements in the media that the merger “won’t reduce competition because the two companies do not compete in any city or town in the U.S.” Which is something they’d have to be pretty careful about, given current anti-trust or anti-monopoly statutes that vary from state to state, as merger attorneys in San Antonio would be aware. Okay, though, so far so good—until now, when Comcast accidentally published an unfinished blog post betraying their uncertainty about whether all their insistence that “not a single market will see a reduction in competition” is really the case.
Comcast Vice President Sena Fitzmaurice said it again in the blog post, repeating the “company’s talking point that ‘if the proposed transaction goes through, consumers will not lose a choice of cable companies. Consumers will not lose a choice of broadband providers.” All well and good, in the final version. But in an original version published very briefly before being edited, Fitzmaurice’s comments were followed by “a seemingly out-of-place sentence” that read “We are still working with a vendor to analyze the FCC spreadsheet but in case it shows that there are any consumers in census blocks that may lose a broadband choice, want to make sure these sentences are more nuanced.”
Whoops. Merger attorneys in San Antonio like Micah McBride working in business litigation would know all too well that an admission like that could mean big trouble for the company, should any consumers end up losing a choice of provider due to the acquisition of Time Warner by Comcast. The sentence was obviously never meant for publication, and “seems to be an editing suggestion that was disregarded but not deleted until after the blog post went live.” And now the evidence is all over the Internet.
The Consumerist picked up on it, as well as Ars Technica, but VP Fitzmaurice was seemingly able to explain away the accidentally included language with at least a modicum of credibility: “Comcast has previously disclosed in its FCC filings that there may be some de minimis overlaps between the Applicants, which hthe FCC precedent makes clear pose no competitive issues.” While the “FCC precedent” part of the statement would probably need to be verified by merger attorneys in San Antonio or elsewhere for its applicability and relevance, on the surface, it seems as though Comcast smoothed over their gaffe nicely enough.
For now. But the FCC spreadsheet in question is still being analyzed, and “may provide further insight on this,” although Comcast is leaning heavily on “previous FCC decisions, including one on its own 2002 purchase of AT&T Broadband, [that] found that such small overlaps ‘are no cause for competitive concern.’” But merger attorneys in San Antonio would also be aware that a new coalition has formed to lobby against the merger. Self-proclaimed as “Stop Mega Comcast,” the fifteen-member special interest group is “touting support from hundreds of community organizations, programmers, lawmakers and diversity groups.” And Comcast may have just inadvertently handed them the ammo they need to succeed.