The Inevitability Of Bad Outcomes

In pro sports, a very bad team can have reasonably contented fans because they know a bad team means the massive rebuild is on the way. Good news follows bad, and then the cycle repeats itself.

Likewise, an interesting piece in at Re/Code, suggests that as more and more online content services reveal themselves--Sony’s Vue, Dish’s SlingTV, maybe Apple’s own thing--consumers have more and more alternatives to receive programming. That’s great news for consumers!

And that should sound like bad, bad news for Comcast and Time Warner, which would truly like to consummate their marriage before all the sexy parts of it start to droop and see all these challengers as an affront to their subscription livelihood.

Oh, no, says Re/Code’s Amy Schatz, who argues that Comcast and Time Warner can now use all of those shiny new services to prove that there is a growing mountain of competition in the content delivery business. Indeed, every new content delivery service makes the Comcast Time Warner merger seem more possible.

Presumably, the FCC and the Justice Department are taking a long, hard look at the hook-up. There have been no lack of voices in opposition; Comcast, particularly, might be the most hated company in all of America, and merging the No. 1 and No. 2 largest cable companies seems, on its face, to be impossible.

Once, I used to think that mass of naysayers meant something, but, call it experience or growing crankiness, deals like this don’t get cooked without the chefs knowing they have a surefire recipe. In the past, the public wasn’t as settled in to recognizing the inevitability of big, nasty deals. Now, the damned public knows it’s damned.

Others, thank god, are more hopeful about the process than I am.

Yet, even as cord-cutting stories these days excitedly note how the pace of cable disconnects is surely going to grow, all that competition still depends, nearly invariably, on consumers getting their Internet from a cable operator.

So, it’s winning for losing. And as MediaPost’s Wendy Davis and others reported last week, HBO, Showtime and Sony are worried that broadband providers (read Comcast and Time Warner among them) can put a cap on how much video consumers can download, and/or charge them more after a certain amount of usage. 

All of which becomes another nice piece of change for the cable companies.

It doesn’t have to play out like that. With the new net neutrality regs, the FCC can put the brakes on caps, though every new OTT entrant will make those caps seem almost reasonable, a bargain, even.
And so it goes. Another rebuilding year looms after this championship season.


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