'NYT,' ivi Fear Comcast/NBC Merger Will Stifle Competition

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Opposition to Comcast's takeover of NBC isn't over -- now The New York Times and combative digital video site ivi TV have major issues.

The Seattle-based ivi TV, which started up this fall airing live network programming -- and was immediately slapped with lawsuits by the broadcast networks -- says the merger will hurt competition.

Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of ivi TV, said: "Comcast has established a clear pattern and practice of requiring exclusive distribution rights in its contracts with content providers that stifles both competition and innovation."

Companies like ivi TV are especially worried that broadcasters can further restrict content, including digital video companies that believe they can rebroadcast network signals. Weaver adds: "The acquisition by Comcast of NBC-Universal would exacerbate the ability of ivi TV and other OTT [over the top] providers to obtain content. As a consequence, consumers will suffer."

The New York Times voiced similar concerns in an editorial. It isn't just that Comcast controls about one-quarter of all U.S. homes when it comes to their traditional cable systems. It also controls one-fifth of all U.S. broadband customers.

If the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department approve the plan, the NYT says it would want major protections -- especially in the online arena -- where there is limited government regulation.

The editorial asks: "What if the combined company limited access to its shows online to subscribers of its broadband service or cable packages? Or if it refused to provide NBC Universal content to rival online services? It could degrade the online signal of rivals, or charge through the roof to transmit their content to its broadband subscribers."

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