David Carr on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal:

Foremost, Comcast already has a huge regulatory win in the bank. Its proposed acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009 was met with abundant skepticism, with consumer advocates contending that control over both so much content and distribution gave it too much market power. The company maneuvered its way past those hurdles and won approval by making some concessions and commitments, and it is in an even stronger position today.

Consider that one of the Federal Communications Commission regulators who approved the NBCUniversal deal, Meredith Attwell Baker, now works for Comcast as a lobbyist. Since that deal, there has been a change in leadership at the commission, and it is now run by Tom Wheeler, who was previously a chief lobbyist for the cable industry. (Comcast is among the biggest spenders on lobbying, having written checks for $18 million in 2013 alone.)

The deck is absolutely stacked for this deal to happen. Which is, of course, total bullshit. Continues Carr:

Cable is a necessary evil that works best when we can exercise consumer choice. I live in northern New Jersey and used to be a Comcast customer — I dumped it after one of its technicians pointed to the cable running through the trees and said I might not have a great connection when the wind was blowing. I switched to Verizon FiOS’s fiber-optic service and have been very happy since. (Not cheap, but it works.) When, you might ask, will the fiber-optic future arrive at your house? How about never? Does never sound good?

No, it does not. But much of the cable market has already been divided up — as the executives behind the merger noted, Time Warner and Comcast do not overlap in any markets, and Verizon has previously agreed not to expand. Comcast, which will now have less competition, will have less motivation to invest in building out infrastructure like fiber-optic networks at the expense of its shareholders.

It’s not so much that Comcast is stifling some existing competition here — it’s that they’re ensuring there will never be any competition to speak of. And even if this monopolist is benevolent, they’ll have no true incentive to push innovation forward. And that hurts us all in so many more ways than just our checkbooks.

Yankees To Buy Red Sox

True story: this evening, I found myself at a Comcast event. I drank the free booze. Had some hors d’oeuvres. Watched some 4K Super Ultra HD.1 Grand old regular night.



Here’s the thing: the people who work at Comcast all seem nice enough. They are human beings after all. And I’d never begrudge anyone from earning a living. But Comcast as an entity is like a horror story of regulation gone bad.

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Joe Flint on the report that Netflix’s recent gains was because competitors like HBO and Showtime were on the decline:

“The research is simply incorrect. Both HBO and Cinemax services have shown significant domestic subscriber growth the past two years,” an HBO spokesman said. In 2012, HBO said it added 1.9 million subscribers and it expects a similar figure for 2013.

Okay, but Netflix added 2.3 million subscribers last quarter. HBO and Showtime may not be declining, but Netflix is a rocket ship compared to them when it comes to growth — and that has to be concerning to both of those companies.

And it’s why they’re going to have to go direct-to-consumer as well at some point. Probably sooner than they think.

Content, Content, Content

Intel just sold its unreleased television service to Verizon. TiVo just shuttered its hardware business. Google TV flopped. Boxee sold out. Aereo keeps getting sued. Roku keeps trying new things. Netflix keeps spending wildly. Amazon more wildly still. And where on Earth is that Apple television?

Where’s the future of television we’ve been promised every year for the past decade? It always seems to be coming “next year”. And I have a hunch that 2014 may be no different.

Here’s the thing: there isn’t actually a technology problem in this space. That is, while the current solutions offered by the cable providers mainly suck, they suck because they can suck. Big Cable is holding all the cards. And they know it.

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Dawn C. Chmielewski:

The newly installed Hulu executive team is believed to already be pursuing deals with cable operators to offer subscribers access to Hulu as a way to watch current shows online, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

The team also may seek to use these same pay-TV providers to sell subscriptions to Hulu Plus, which extends TV viewing to Internet-connected game consoles and televisions as well as to smartphones and tablets.

The play-nice-with-the-cable-guys strategy marks a shift in emphasis for Hulu, a site that launched in March 2008 with big ambitions to change the TV world by providing free online access to popular TV shows.

Meet the new boss, not exactly the same as the old boss, but the exact same as the old old boss. Disappointing. 

Shalini Ramachandran and Thomas Gryta:

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth biggest pay-TV providers in the U.S. after Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the two satellite-TV companies, DirecTV and Dish Network Corp.

And rising — fast.

Fascinating that it will be the shady wireless guys pushing slimy cable guys. But hey, any competition (which the cable industry has lacked, and has left them ill-prepared) is good, right?

Kevin Fitchard:

AT&T hopes to breath new life into some old airwaves by building a broadcast network, ideal for pushing out live video to many multiple devices with out jamming up its pipes with traffic. The technology is called LTE-Broadcast, and as it name implies it turns what is normally a two-way mobile broadband network into a one-way multicast network similar to those used by TV broadcasters.

As I was talking about the other day, beyond cord-cutters, the cable companies have to watch out for the wireless players, who are increasingly aligning for a collision course. And those guys have an advantage in that everyone already has a phone — including the “cord-nevers” — and there are no wires/installation required.

Ian King:

Henely, 23, instead watches shows and movies streamed from Netflix, Amazon.com or directly from broadcasters’ websites, using a computer hooked up to the TV in her home. She’s known in industry parlance as a cord never, meaning she hasn’t ever subscribed to pay TV: channels from a cable company, such as Comcast, or a satellite provider like DirecTV, or phone companies — and she doesn’t ever intend to.


David Heasty, a 34-year-old graphic designer, gets older episodes of shows like “Breaking Bad” over the Internet and watches them on his computer screen. He’s never had a TV subscription and pays Time Warner Cable about $50 a month for broadband only — though he said he would spend more if he was allowed to pay for only the channels or shows he wants. “It’s not a money thing, it never was,” said the Brooklyn, New York, resident, who runs his own business. “It’s a good thing for the companies to ponder. They’re missing out on an audience.”

It’s not actually the “cord cutters” that should be a concern for the cable companies, it should be the “cord nevers”. These young people are likely never going to sign up for a cable television subscription because they get more than enough content elsewhere without cable television.

And actually, that should be more of a concern for the traditional Hollywood establishment, because many of these people are still paying the cable companies to get internet. For those guys, the challenge is the wireless companies. If data and tethering becomes fast and affordable enough, that could be very problematic. Why pay for another internet service? Why mess around with any cables?

And the second point there is more important than the first. The predominant thought has been that cable television is too expensive — which it is — but that’s not what’s driving some cord cutters and cord nevers. For example, I haven’t had cable for years now. It’s not because I can’t afford it. It’s because there’s so much content elsewhere, why bother subscribing to yet another source that I’ll rarely use?

We’re inundated with options to entertain ourselves now. Cable just isn’t as interesting — or convenient — as it once was. 

Christopher Palmeri & Andy Fixmer:

An Internet TV provider would have to pay as much or more than cable and satellite services, President John Skipper said today at ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut. He declined to specify the companies ESPN has spoken with.

A Web-based service would have to buy “the whole suite of products,” Skipper said. “We’re not going to offer one-offs.” The network includes the flagship channel, plus others such as ESPN2, ESPN News and mobile applications offered to existing pay-TV subscribers.

"You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability…"

Brian Stelter covering the just-launched Al Jazeera America:

“Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week. He was explicit about what will be different, saying, “There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.”

Sounds refreshing, but I wonder if that’s what viewers really want. I’m reminded of the line about Netflix streaming, “A lot of people tell us they often watch foreign movies or documentaries. But in practice, that doesn’t happen very much.” Fox News is the way it is for a reason.

Shalini Ramachandran and Martin Peers:

Mr. Dolan said that on the rare occasions he watches TV, it is often with his young children, who prefer to watch online video service Netflix, using Cablevision broadband. He added that the cable-TV industry is in a “bubble” with its emphasis on packages of channels that people are required to pay for, predicting it will mature “badly” as young people opt to watch online video rather than pay for traditional TV services.

James Dolan may be a nightmare for Knicks fans, but he seems to be thinking clearly here.


Nielsen reported this spring that there are now over 5 million cord cutters in the U.S., up from 3 million in 2007. In these “zero tv” households, almost half were under the age of 35. 

(via TechCrunch)

It’s important to note that “zero TV” doesn’t mean these homes don’t have televisions — most do. It simply means they’re not paying for cable. 
The graph above clearly illustrates what might be considered a “trend”. Or, to put it another way, winter is coming.


Nielsen reported this spring that there are now over 5 million cord cutters in the U.S., up from 3 million in 2007. In these “zero tv” households, almost half were under the age of 35.

(via TechCrunch)

It’s important to note that “zero TV” doesn’t mean these homes don’t have televisions — most do. It simply means they’re not paying for cable. 

The graph above clearly illustrates what might be considered a “trend”. Or, to put it another way, winter is coming.

Marguerite Reardon:

Google offers only two tiers of service for its residential broadband service: a 1Gbps service for $70 a month and a 5Mbps service that is free with a $300 fiber installation fee that can be paid for over two years. While the 1Gbps service is slightly higher than the $40 to $50 most consumers pay each month for broadband, it’s still a better value.

Those other services priced at that amount generally only offer 5Mbps to 10Mbps of download speeds and even slower upload connections. Providers that are offering 100Mbps of broadband service are charging $300 or $400 a month. At $70 for 1Gbps, Google Fiber is simply a better value. It offers 10 times the capacity for less than a third or a quarter of the cost. Even providers that can offer 1Gbps of service are charging over $1,000 a month for that service.

Newsflash: if you offer an amazing service in a sea of shitty ones, people will not only pay for it, they’ll beg for the option to pay for it. This tends to create “moneymakers”.