Comcast Accuses TWC Merger Critics Of 'Extortion'

Comcast says companies like Netflix, which opposes Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable, are trying to extort the cable giant.
Posted at 7:38 PM, Sep 24, 2014

Comcast has been in talks to acquire Time Warner Cable since February — a plan that has faced a lot of opposition.

But now Comcast is firing back, saying the deal’s opponents are extorting the cable titan in exchange for their approval.

The claim comes in a 337-page filing to the Federal Communications Commission in which Comcast singles out Discovery Communications, Netflix, Viamedia and Dish as demanding special conditions for their approval.

In response, Comcast says the FCC should “forcefully reject these extortionate, anti-consumer efforts, which clearly have nothing to do with the public interest.”

But are the requests actually extortion? Well, that’s still up for debate.

A writer for Re/code says the companies were only upholding a long-held tradition that those affected by a merger such as this one attach self-serving conditions to their approval of it.

And the Consumerist notes when Comcast bought NBCUniversal, it actually agreed to all sorts of conditions, such as letting Bloomberg air alongside MSNBC and CNBC.

In response to Comcast’s claim of extortion, Netflix released a statement saying: “It is not extortion to demand that Comcast provide its own customers the broadband speeds. …  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 has regularly voiced its opposition to the merger deal, with CEO Reed Hastings expressing his concerns in May:

HASTINGS VIA CNBC: “Comcast seems to, would love to be the post office and have a national monopoly and collect on everything, but you know that’s not how the Internet works.”

A spokesman for Discovery Communications, which owns channels such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, also dismissed the extortion claim, telling Bloomberg, “We stand by our concerns that Comcast could use its enhanced leverage from the proposed merger to impose onerous terms.”

Comcast maintains the merger with Time Warner Cable, which the FCC is currently reviewing, will improve both video and broadband for its customers.

This video contains images from Getty Images, Adam Fagen / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, and Carbon Arc / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.