Responses to Comcast’s incendiary “extortion” charges this morning are starting to come in. Here are ones from Netflix and independent TV network Veria Living — both critics of the cable giant’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Nothing yet from Discovery, which Comcast called the “poster child” for complaints from programmers who allegedly sought special favors in return for their support for the deal. We’ll update when (if?) it lands.
It is not extortion to demand that Comcast provide its own customers the broadband speeds they’ve paid for so they can enjoy Netflix.
It is extortion when Comcast fails to provide its own customers the broadband speed they’ve paid for unless Netflix also pays a ransom.
Netflix grudgingly paid to improve performance for our mutual customers, a precedent that remains damaging for consumers (who ultimately pay higher costs) and for other innovative businesses (that can be held over the barrel by Comcast to do the same)
If the merger were to proceed, this one company, Comcast, would have control over high speed residential internet in a majority of American homes and that is clearly not “great” for consumers.
Veria Living CEO Eric Sherman:
All we have ever asked for is a level playing field for all programmers and a chance for all networks to get their messages to consumers. For a giant like Comcast – which is about to control 28 of the nation’s top 30 markets – to accuse us of extortion is absurd.
The FCC and Congress invited independent programmers to share with policymakers their frustration with Comcast as part of the merger review process. We have done that in an open and honest manner, providing testimony and talking with regulators on the record.
We speak for consumers when we argue that Comcast should be required to provide a clear, transparent and fair route for independents to be considered for carriage. That has not been the case.