Consumers Union Statement on Comcast Bid to Buy 21st Century Fox 

Experts

Senior Policy Counsel
Associate Director, Strategic Communications

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Comcast today announced its bid to purchase most of 21st Century Fox in an all-cash deal estimated at $65 billion. Comcast, the nation’s largest internet and pay-TV provider, which also owns NBC Universal, would acquire Fox’s movie and television studios, including several of its numerous cable channels and premium sports channels. 

Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, voiced serious concern over the prospect of Comcast further expanding its vast telecommunications empire — which is routinely among the worst-rated companies in overall customer satisfaction —  as well as the industry-wide race towards consolidation across the telecommunications and media marketplace.

“Comcast already has an ironclad grip over the internet, pay-TV, and premium content markets — buying  21st Century Fox will only strengthen its hold and power over competitors. This deal would give Comcast even more premium content, with little-to-nothing stopping them from hoarding or prioritizing their own content at the expense of competitors and consumers,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Comcast promised that bigger would be better when it merged with NBC Universal. But consumers have yet to see those promises come to fruition. Prices continue to increase and customers continue to complain about Comcast’s lackluster customer service. Moreover, the telecom giant has already been accused of violating the conditions put on its merger with NBC Universal, the last of which expire later this year. If Comcast failed to live up to its promises when specific rules were in place, it’s alarming to imagine what the company will try to pull off once it gets out from under those conditions.”

Schwantes added, “Mergers of this type and scale, including the AT&T-Time Warner deal approved yesterday, could create unprecedented opportunities to exploit premium content in ways that could drive up consumer costs, stifle competition and further limit consumer choice in a market already dominated by too few players. Consumers are just now beginning to see the flicker of competition online, with over-the-top services like Sling TV and Playstation Vue offering streaming live TV options at lower prices. But with the impending loss of net neutrality and the increasing number of industry giants who own both distribution and content on such a massive scale, consumers may lose out on these innovative platforms who simply can’t compete without dramatically raising prices.”