Trump to DoJ: OK, Let’s Get CNN Dead To Rights

By Paul S. Maxwell Paul Maxwell Report Archives

If it is indeed bad for America for AT&T to subsume Time Warner in violation of a longstanding regulatory rubber stamp for so-called vertical mergers (where the buyer and seller don’t directly compete), why would it be okay for President Trump’s Department of Justice (DoJ) to allow the two-step (2009 and 2013) Comcast acquisition of NBCUniversal to stand?  After all, it was President Obama’s DoJ that allowed it; and so far it seems that this President’s idea of what to do during his time in office is pretty much limited to undoing what Obama did during his time in office (whether good, bad or indifferent).  But allow me to step back a moment.  I am not advocating for that to happen.  I’m just pointing out it ain’t fair.  (Which, of course, has become irrelevant.)  I would also like to reinforce the truth of today’s media marketplace: ya’ gotta be really big to compete with the edge players of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google).

Last fall I posited that Comcast/NBCU was the very model of a modern media company because it has a significant presence in the areas of both “connection” and “content.”  (Note:  I used to call it the two “Cs” -- meaning "content" and "conduit."  I’ve retired conduit in favor of connection.  The conduit, whether wired or not, facilitates the connection and therefore the monthly subscription fee.)  I also suggested (before AT&T bid for TW) the next players would be AT&T, Charter and Verizon, with one of them bidding for Time Warner and another bidding for Disney.  

But now we’ve got a “Trumpian” DoJ instead of a traditional Republican pro-business growth DoJ (though the Republican Congress is seemingly still very business-prone with its corporate tax initiatives).  New DoJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim is redefining the DoJ’s positions to mean “structural” instead of “behavioral” solutions (his word) to questionable merger proposals.  In other words, there is a Trumpian rationale to taking aim at CNN and Turner networks.

So what’s a modern media company to do?  Frankly, AT&T/TW makes eminent sense in the efforts of traditional connected and content companies in order to compete with the FANG behemoths.

Here’s what I think:

  1. AT&T should take the DoJ to court; not all of the Trumpian judge appointments have fully infiltrated all the “right” courts yet.
  2. Comcast should bid for Disney (again).  After all, Brian Roberts is a damn good deal-maker and Steve Burke has always wanted to run Disney, too.
  3. Liberty (any one of the proper units) should bid for the 21st Century and News Corp units that could best help Charter join the conversation … and maybe even Dr. John Malone could join the resulting News Corp unit as a board member.  After all, someone should keep the Murdochs honest.
  4. All of the connection providers (really, ISPs including traditional cable) should use the NCTA, the NAB or The CableCenter to back a sort of false news attack on the government using the Russian example of prostituting social media.  In other words, use FANG+ to de-fang them.

Random Notes

So, the Federal Confusion Commission has allowed ATSC 3.0 on a voluntary basis.  Good for them.  More to the point, if I were a cable operator, I’d drop any station that adopted permission to demand must carry.  In the meantime, I’d give every home in the system a free antenna … and promptly drop every broadcaster, therein saving customers a ton of retransmission fees.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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