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Turner Agrees To VOD Deal With Comcast

Turner Broadcasting logoTime Warner’s cable networks operation says that beginning this summer it will offer “complete current and previous seasons” of some of its original shows on a VOD basis to Comcast‘s Xfinity TV and digital platforms. The key to the deal: The cable company will offer dynamic ad insertion, which enables it and Turner to update and target commercial messages to particular viewers — a big selling point for networks in this upfront sales season. Fast forwarding will be disabled for most of the content, so viewers can’t speed through the ads.

“As viewing habits evolve, we continue to advance our advertiser offerings with stronger, more targeted products,”  Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales President Donna Speciale says. “Through dynamic ad insertion, we now have a new source to swiftly integrate advertising creative in a highly sought after environment.”
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Deadline Big Media 84 – The All3 Apple Alibaba Podcast

Deadline Big Media ep 84In this edition of the podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom recap Deadline’s annual report on the most out-of-whack paydays for CEOs in media. Who got paid the most compared to their own top colleagues this past year? We’ll also jump on the news carousel with big deal-related stories affecting All3Media, Apple and Alibaba; and decide what to make of Liberty’s John Maffei statement that Charter is still looking for more cable buys after its $20 billion deal with Comcast.

Deadline Big Media podcast 84 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 84 (.M4A version)

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NBC Execs Talk Up Comcast Synergy In A “New Era For Media”

By | Monday May 12, 2014 @ 9:29am PDT

Upfronts2014_badgeThe broadcast network is “firing on all cylinders” as it ends the season No. 1 in its 18-to-49 target audience, NBCUniversal Advertising Sales President Linda Yaccarino says. But the network’s main business pitch at its upfront presentation this morning was familiar to anyone who showed up last year: As part of Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, COMCASTNBC offers far more corporate synergies than its broadcast peers, presenting buyers with opportunities to make a “portfolio wide investment” from one sales team in “the most amazing collection of brands ever assembled,” she says. ”We proved it. It works. It works by a mile.” Yaccarino pointed to Comcast’s Project Symphony broadcast-cable-digital-movie-theme park-cable system promotions for LindaYaccarinoUniversal’s Despicable Me, the Olympics, and NBC’s The Blacklist. (Telemundo and NBC’s cable channels will make separate presentations to ad buyers this week.)

Related: NBC Upfronts Presentation 2014: Live-Blog

NBC couldn’t ignore the Internet following weeks of NewFront presentations from tech companies including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL that want to lure ad dollars from TV to their online video productions.”You’ll see much more growth in digital investments” in “a new era in media” for Comcast, the sales chief says. She touted investments in the “NBCU+ Powered by Comcast” initiative that offers buyers targeted VOD ads and data from its cable set top boxes. The company offers “more ways to measure our success, like no other company can do.” Read More »

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Comcast And Olympics Organizers Take A $7.65B Leap Of Faith On Future Games

OlympicsRingsThe International Olympic Committee didn’t take competitive bids the way it did in 2011 — when Fox and ESPN joined the fray — before accepting Comcast’s $7.65B offer to carry the games in the U.S. through 2032. But the $1.4B increase in the outlay by the owner of NBCUniversal “is not small” for the IOC its president, Thomas Bach, said today in a conference call. NBC has handled 23 Olympics beginning with the Tokyo games in 1964 and the IOC “Comcast-new-logo__130212144603-200x112wanted to build on this long term partnership with NBC so we could be sure, and we are sure, that the Olympic games will be presented in a way the Olympic spirit requires.” He vowed that more than 90% of the revenue will go to organizers of future Olympics, giving planners financial security.

Related: NBC Nabs Olympics Rights Through 2032

Comcast chief Brian Roberts says he felt comfortable making the offer, even though he doesn’t know where the future games will be held, after his company recorded a profit from London and Sochi. Plans to combine the cable company’s “technology leadership and X1 platform” with NBC’s storytelling expertise mean “we’ve only begun to scratch the surface,” Roberts says. 

Th execs began their private talks to extend their partnership at a private dinner in NYC in November, and continued the conversation at Sochi. Bach says he was so eager to work with a trusted collaborator that he was satisfied with a handshake, although “the lawyers insisted that we even sign some papers.” Execs offered few additional details about the terms, including whether NBCU’s Telemundo might air the games in Spanish. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 83 – The Really Big Cable TV Show

By and | Saturday May 3, 2014 @ 12:47pm PDT

Deadline Big Media ep 83In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom recap one heck of a week in the business of providing services that looks more or less like television across all kinds of delivery platforms. The NCTA cable-TV conference opened in Los Angeles, attracting numerous big-name speakers such as the FCC chairman, but big deals also seemed to be breaking out everywhere. There was talk of a massive deal between AT&T and DirecTV Networks; a $20-billion swap of subscribers between Charter and Comcast, and Viacom’s $757 million acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5. Along the way, DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg seemed to write off his core business, and got roundly whacked by another media mogul, Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner. In a word, “ouch.”

Listen to the podcast in your choice of audio formats here:
Deadline Big Media podcast 83 (.MP3 version)
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Cable Show: Charter CEO Slides By Question About His Change On Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

Tom Rutledge 1Charter CEO Tom Rutledge seemed a bit like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel talking about his amp going to 11 when CNBC’s Jon Fortt asked exactly the right question in a panel today at the National Cable Show: What changed to make him support Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which Charter opposed last month saying would leave Comcast controlling “nearly 40 percent of the broadband market, around 33 million TV subscribers and a major programmer in NBCUniversal”? The real answer is that Charter logoCharter was bought off this week when Comcast agreed to sell it many of the subs it had already promised to divest, making Charter the industry’s No. 2. Rutledge couldn’t say that, of course. Instead he avoided the core issue and said that “It’s a smaller deal from Comcast’s perspective and from an organization of the industry perspective it’s a much better outcome.” The companies “are committed to serving their communities and their employees and their customers.”

Related: Cable Show: FCC Chair Says “All Options” Open For Net Neutrality

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was a little smoother in addressing a question about concentration concerns raised by critics including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “When you net this all out, we’re buying 7M net customers” — Read More »

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MGM Joins Studios That Sell Movies To Comcast Customers

By | Wednesday April 30, 2014 @ 6:26am PDT

Comcast-new-logo__130212144603-200x112Los Angeles, CA and Philadelphia, PA – April 30, 2014 – Comcast and MGM Television (MGM) today announced that Comcast will begin to make MGM content available through the Xfinity On Demand digital store. Xfinity TV customers can own and access movies anytime, anywhere, on any device, often before the DVD release.

The list of stellar MGM fan favorites to be added to the Xfinity On Demand store will include: Bull Durham, Capote, Carrie (2013), Fargo, The Graduate, Hoosiers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Legally Blonde, The Princess Bride, the Rocky franchise, Skyfall, The Silence Of The Lambs, The Usual Suspects, Thelma & Louise, West Side Story and When Harry Met Sally as well as the hit television series Vikings. MGM’s content will debut on Comcast with the 2014 film RoboCop on Digital HD on May 20, 2014.

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UPDATE: WGAW Says Comcast-Charter Deal Creates A ‘Cable Cartel’

Charter logo2ND UPDATE, 12:25 PM: The WGA West has weighed in on the divestiture plan between Comcast and Charter — and it isn’t mincing words. Here’s the guild’s just-released statement — judge for yourself: “Today’s announcement from Comcast would, in essence, lead to the creation of a three-company cable cartel. Masquerading as subscriber divestitures, the agreement with Charter brings together the three largest cable providers, who account for 38% of cable subscribers and 45% of Internet subscribers. The decision of these three powerful companies to divide markets and share ownership of subscribers through a new publicly traded corporation is unprecedented and adds to the mounting evidence against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.”

UPDATED: Looks like Charter will become the cable king of middle America, while Comcast tightens its hold on major markets, in this morning’s deal. Comcast will pick up Charter systems in California, New England, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Oregon, Washington and Virginia. Meanwhile, Charter will acquire Time Warner Cable franchises in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Alabama — and manage others in Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin that it will partly own in a new Comcast spinoff company. Here’s the map the companies released showing holdings for Charter and the new Charter-managed spinoff from Comcast (for now referred to as “SpinCo”) after the deal, which CEO Tom Rutledge says will make his company No. 1 in 10 states.

Charter-Comcast mapPREVIOUS, 3:18 AM: The terms pretty much match earlier reports about the companies’ discussions. Assuming the feds approve Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the cable giant would: (1) Sell systems with 1.4M TWC subs to Charter, making it the No. 2 operator. (2) Swap with Charter systems that include 1.6M subs. (3) Create a spinoff company with 2.5M subs that would be 33% owned by Charter. “The realignment of key cable markets achieved in these transactions will enable Comcast to fill in our footprint and deliver operational efficiencies and technology improvements,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says. While the companies didn’t put a dollar value on the deals, analysts have estimated it at about $20B. Comcast and Charter will disclose more info later this morning in a call with analysts.

Here’s their release: Read More »

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Comcast Close To $20B Cable Deal With Charter: Report

By | Saturday April 26, 2014 @ 3:11pm PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger logoThe combination of system sales and swaps valued at $20B would affect nearly 5.6M cable subscribers — and would remove Charter as a potential obstacle to Comcast‘s $45B acquisition of Time Warner CableFinancial Times reports. Word of a possible deal has been circulating for days, but the paper, citing “people familiar with the matter,” now says the companies are “close to agreeing” to the complicated transaction, perhaps this week.Charter logo It’s all contingent on federal approval for the mega-deal to combine the nation’s two largest cable providers. The new agreement has three components: Charter would buy from Comcast systems now owned by TWC that include 1.4M subs. The cable giant would create a new company with 2.5M subs, in which Charter would have a 35% stake. And Comcast and Charter would swap 1.65M subs. FT says it’s “unclear exactly which subscribers will be swapped or the exact geographies under discussion.” Comcast wants to increase its clout in major markets, including New York and Los Angeles: The company has said that it sees big growth opportunities in offering business services.

Related: Olympics Help Comcast To Beat Q1 Earnings Expectations

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Time Warner Cable Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates With Strength In Broadband And Business Services

By | Thursday April 24, 2014 @ 3:53am PDT

Time Warner Super Bowl 2014Price hikes for Internet and the company’s growing attention to business customers saved the day for Time Warner Cable in Q1 as its video subscriptions fell and it grappled with rising costs for programming and its planned merger with Comcast. TWC shares are up about 2% pre-market after the No. 2 cable operator reported net income of $479M, +19.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $5.58B, +2%. Analysts expected the top line to come in higher at $5.64B. After factoring out one-time costs, including merger-related expenses, earnings came in at $1.78 a share, a dime ahead of the consensus forecast. The period included $62M in expenses tied to Comcast’s $42B takeover effort, including $29M in “employee retention costs” and $33M in advisory and legal fees. Programming costs rose 2.9% to $1.3B, including costs associated with TWC’s LA regional sports channels for the Lakers and Dodgers. But with 11.16M video subs at the end of March — down 748,000 vs last year and -34,000 from the end of December — the average monthly programming costs per residential sub increased 10.2% to $37.69. (By contrast, Comcast eeked out a small increase in video subs in Q1.)

Related: Time Warner Cable Chief Says Subs Coming Over For Dodgers Channel

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Comcast Expects NBC To Catch Up To Rivals In Upfront Ad Market

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 6:36am PDT

Steve Burke“Monetization gap” is the clunky term NBCU chief Steve Burke frequently uses when he laments the low ad rates his company commands after years of flailing in the TV ratings wars. But with NBC poised to end the prime time season No. 1 in its target 18-to-49 demo, he tells analysts today that he’s going into the upfront sales market “with our best position in a decade” and “it’s going to be worth a lot.” He knows better than to offer specific numbers, but notes that “we can’t find any network that’s swung as much in a year.” CFO Michael Angelakis also said that this will be “a very meaningful correction year.” This was one reason CEO Brian Roberts says NBCU “has real momentum and we believe this is sustainable throughout 2014.”
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Olympics Help Comcast To Beat Q1 Earnings Expectations

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 4:09am PDT

COMCASTThe Sochi Olympics generated more than $1.1B in revenue which enabled NBCUniversal to propel the cable giant’s strong financial results. Comcast generated $1.87B in net income attributable to the company, +30.2% vs the first three months of 2013, on revenues of $17.4B, +13.7%. The top-line number nbcsochi__131202172913__140212145821beat the $17.04B that analysts expected. Earnings not including one-time items came in at 68 cents a share, ahead of the consensus forecast of 64 cents. With the Olympics dough, NBCU revenues increased 28.8% to $6.88B with operating cash flow +37.6% to $1.31B. The broadcast operation led the way with a 72.8% boost in revenues to $2.6B — but still would have been up 17% without the Games due to a 15.8% increase in ad sales from NBC’s improved ratings. Cable network revenue increased 12.6% to $2.5B, but would have been up just 1% without the Olympics. due to a 1.4% drop in ad sales.

Related: Comcast Expects NBC To Catch Up To Rivals In Upfront Ad Market

Ride Along #1 box officeAt the smaller Universal filmed entertainment operation, revenues increased 11.1% to $1.4B with help from Ride Along and Lone Survivor and overseas sales for The Wolf Of Wall Street. And theme park revenues increased 5.4% to $487M as per capita spending increased while attendance remained stable. The core cable business also did well — even with video subscriptions, up by 24,000 to 22.6M. Revenues for all of the cable systems offerings including broadband increased 5.3% to $10.8B due to rate hikes, upselling, and customer growth. Read More »

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Comcast To Netflix: “Here Are The Facts” About Time Warner Cable Merger

By | Monday April 21, 2014 @ 5:08pm PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger logoThe cabler has fired back at the DVD/streaming service, which earlier today slammed the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as anti-competitive. In its response, Comcast said Netflix‘s stance “is based on inaccurate claims and arguments.” Here’s the company’s full reply from Jennifer Khoury, SVP Corporate & Digital Communications:

Netflix’s opposition to our Time Warner Cable transaction is based on inaccurate claims and arguments. There has been no company that has had a stronger netflix_logo2commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast and we are the only ISP in the country that is currently legally bound by the FCC’s vacated net neutrality rules. In fact, one of the many benefits of our proposed transaction with Time Warner Cable will be the extension of Net Neutrality protections to millions of additional Americans. Here are the facts:

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Comcast Takes Full Control Of FEARnet, To Fold It In Into Chiller & Syfy

By | Monday April 14, 2014 @ 10:56am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It’s the end of the road for thriller, suspense and Fearnethorror-themed FEARnet. Comcast has bought out its partners in the joint venture — Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment — to take 100% ownership. Following the transaction, which closed this morning, FEARnet will no longer be a stand-alone brand but will be folded into Comcast’s NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment division. “NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment has acquired all remaining interests in FEARnet from its productive venture with Lionsgate and Sony,” the company said in a statement to Deadline through a spokesman. “FEARnet, along with its popular content, will be integrated into NBCU Cable Entertainment. This process will take place over a yet to be determined period of time.”

FEARnet is expected to be folded mainly into Comcast/NBCU Cable Entertainment’s similarly thriller, suspense and horror-focused Chiller, though some content could also migrate to Syfy. I’ve learned that 10 of FEARnet’s 25 employees will stay on through the transition. The other 15 are being let go today. NBCU would try to find job opportunities for some of them across the company. FEARnet president Peter Block will stay at least through the transition. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 80 – Comcast Goes To Congress Podcast

By and | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 5:22pm PDT

Deadline Big Media ep 80In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom untangle the latest twists in the giant Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger proposal, as a Senate committee grills Comcast’s “Jedi Master” of a chief lobbyist and Charter prepares a challenge at the TWC annual meeting. The Davids also talk about the very different tone of two just-signed retransmission deals, at least compared to last year’s Time Warner Cable-CBS brawl; how IMAX reduced its stake in China while increasing its influence; and this week’s National Association of Broadcasters conference, where FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urged broadcasters to think like “tech disruptors” and NAB chief Gordon Smith called for a federal plan for broadcasting.

Deadline Big Media podcast 80 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 80 (.M4A version)

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $31.4M In 2013, +7.7%

By | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 2:39pm PDT

The company that owns the largest collection of cable systems plus NBCUniversal has about 3.6 times the market value of CBS — yet CEO Brian Roberts made less than half of what CBS paid Les Moonves in 2013?Brian Roberts No need to shed any tears: After all, Roberts’ family controls Comcast, and it gave him his best pay day in years for a period when the stock value appreciated 39.1%. COMCASTThe package consists of $2.8M salary, $5.3M stock awards, $5.3M option awards, $9.2M in non-equity incentives, $5.1M change in pension value and $3.7M in other compensation. NBCU chief Steve Burke came close to his boss with an 18.1% raise that brought him to $31.1M. Roberts’ take includes $192,177 for personal use of the company jet; Burke’s aircraft use came to $390,994. The board says that Roberts “continued to demonstrate strong leadership” and adds that Burke “successfully managed NBCUniversal.” In a letter to shareholders Roberts talks up Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable noting that “once again” he has called on his government affairs consigliere David Cohen “to help guide us through the government approval process so we can achieve a timely close.” The EVP, who is becoming a celeb in his own right from his appearances to defend the controversial deal, made $14M last year, down 12.1%. Comcast will hold its annual meeting on … Read More »

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UPDATE: Senate Committee Expresses Skepticsm Over Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Comcast-Time-Warner-Cable-logos__140213130107-150x150__140213191744UPDATED: The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into Comcast’s $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable wrapped after three hours today. And Comcast EVP David Cohen upheld his reputation as a lobbying Jedi Master, although critics of the deal scored by pointing out how it could lead to higher prices and problems for independent programmers. Senate Judiciary Cmte Holds Hearing On Comcast-Time Warner Cable MergerCohen started off strong in his opening statement: He cast his company as the embodiment of the American Dream — and announced that it has more than 1M WiFi hot spots with plans to boost their transmission speeds. “This is the 13th time we’ve increased Internet speeds in 12 years,” he says. Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman — a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer — hit back. He charged that it would be “anathema to Comcast” if programmers want to offer content directly to consumers via the Internet for a low cost. The cable giant is committed to “charging top dollar” and, as owner of NBCUniversal, would be like an octopus with tentacles “each capable of squeezing innovation.”

In regard to pricing, Cohen said, in response to a question from committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), that “there is nothing in this transaction that will make anyone’s bills go up….Consumers today are in the driver’s seat.” He added later that programming costs have appreciated 98% over the last decade. Later he told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — who wanted to know whether shareholders would demand higher prices — us-senate-logo_20110526180215that “we have made it a point of significant discussion about our need to continue to invest to compete better with national and global competitors.” Kimmelman responded that Comcast is in the driver’s seat in the highly concentrated video and broadband markets. “The squeeze will come from Comcast,” he says. “It’s logical. They want to save money….and it could lead to significant price increases for others.”

Franken had Cohen against the ropes in a discussion about Comcast’s efforts to push customers to buy multiple or upgraded products. “When you train [sales]people to upsell, you’re not training them to sell the stand-alone product.” Cohen said that “we are allowed to train people to upsell,” but sales reps also “have to be aware of the stand-alone product” and provide it on request. Read More »

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Charter And Others Prepare To Challenge Time Warner Cable At Its Annual Meeting

It’s not WrestleMania, but Time Warner Cable shareholders can expect more excitement than usual at their annual meeting this year: time-warner-cable-logoThe company’s preliminary proxy, out this morning, includes proposals from Charter Communications and other investors  that could create problems for TWC management as it tries to sell the No. 2 cable giant to No. 1 Comcast.

Charter — which was the runner up in the bidding contest, but hasn’t given up — wants to change the by-laws to fix the size of the TWC board at 13 instead of allowing directors to change it when they want. Charter plans to propose its own TWC board slate, and no doubt wants to ensure that directors don’t boost the size of the body to dilute the impact if the challengers win. TWC naturally urges shareholders to reject Charter’s candidates, and the proposal. “Recruiting qualified candidates is a challenging and time-consuming process, and the Board of Directors believes that it is in the best interests of the Company’s stockholders for the Board to retain the flexibility to either increase its size if a highly-qualified candidate becomes available or to decrease its size if a director declines to seek reelection or for other reasons,” the company says.

Charter also wants TWC investors to support a change in the by-laws to repeal any changes made without shareholder support after July 26, 2012. Here, too, TWC’s board urges a “no” vote saying that the resolution “represents no … Read More »

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Comcast Sets Stage For Testy Senate Hearing, Telling FCC That Time Warner Cable Acquisition Serves Public

By | Tuesday April 8, 2014 @ 8:09am PDT

Comcast Time Warner Cable logos

UPDATE, 10:06 AM: Comcast EVP David Cohen just fleshed out in a press call some of his company’s arguments for the Time Warner Cable deal. To those who say the combined company would be too big he says that “in this particular case we think big is good” — it would be better able to offer new and improved services. And if Comcast is wrong “it doesn’t make any difference really because, as a customer, you’ll have the exact number of choices as you had before the transaction.” The only change: With Comcast instead of TWC as a broadband or video provider consumers’ “choice will be better.” He adds that Comcast is focused “like a laser” on improving the customer experience. (Sound familiar?)

PREVIOUS, 8:09 AM: This is the kind of thing you’d expect the cable giant to assert in a regulatory filing — and that will be roundly contested, including tomorrow at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the $45.2B deal. Content companies that might oppose the deal “have strong relationships” with the committee, which oversees copyright matters, Guggenheim Securities’ Paul Gallant says. What’s more, the committee includes two strong critics of media consolidation: Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

SenateJudiciaryCommitteeComcast detailed its public interest arguments in a 175-page document delivered to the FCC this morning. It “lays out in considerable detail how Comcast and TWC are better together for millions of customers and businesses, describing the exciting enhanced services and other concrete consumer benefits that will be available because of the transaction,” Comcast EVP David Cohen says in a blog post. In addition to cable and Internet services, Comcast owns NBCUniversal.

The company indirectly takes issue with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ claim that Comcast imposed an “indirect tax” on the streaming video company in a recent deal: Netflix agreed to pay Comcast directly to access its broadband lines in a way that will deliver the best possible transmissions to its customers. Comcast says it has “no economic incentive” to hit up so-called edge providers because its customers “place a high premium on being able to access any Internet content they want.” Comcast would have about 30M broadband customers after acquiring TWC. Read More »

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