Sunday, February 23, 2014

Economic impact of Comcast - TWC merger

Take two cable monopolists, combine them and stir.  How does this change:

  • Consumer choices: Not at all.  You are still going to be stuck with one cable option for television.  You will have Direct TV and Dish as satellite options and in many areas AT&T U-verse through your phone wire (if you have one).  Comcast and TWC do not compete in any market head to head.  Both are notorious for abysmal consumer service and negligible innovation; no reason to expect any improvement here.  
  • Prices: Possibly a plus.  By combining overhead functions, the merger should produce some economies of scale.  More importantly, the combined company will have more bargaining power with content providers.  People see the rising cable bills year after year and blame the cable provider; they do not see the upward ratchets in content costs, so they give Walt Disney (owner of ESPN) and NBC Universal (owner of Weather Channel, along with Blackstone and Bain) a pass.  
  • Internet speed: If you are thinking about cutting the cable cord, realize that in most places the cable company is likely to be your fastest source for internet.  Triple play pricing makes the cost of basic cable plus internet not all that much higher than basic cable by itself.  Pray that Google Fiber will come to your town soon.  
  • Number of cable subscriptions: Still likely to fall.  Too much good stuff for free or at low cost on the internet; sports is the only exception and you have to think ESPN and the major networks will soon figure out a way to sell sporting events on the spot market instead of sticking to the cable bundle.  

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