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Comcast Opponents Team Up to Kill Time Warner Cable Deal

Public interest groups and business competitors launch a new coalition to kill Comcast’s deal.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Opponents of Comcast’s $45 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable launched a new coalition Wednesday in an effort to convince federal regulators to derail the merger.

The group, called StopMegaComcast, includes 15 public interest groups, competing pay-TV operators and other organizations that have previously come out against the deal. If regulators approve the merger, Comcast*, already the country’s largest cable and Internet provider, will have a total of about 30 million subscribers, including the Los Angeles and New York markets.

Members of the group include Dish Network, the Parents Television Council, the Consumer Federation of America and the Writers Guild of America, West.

“The enforcement agencies are taking a serious look at this and they’re kicking the tires on the theories of competitive harm,” said Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a public interest group which is also part of the new coalition.

The goal of the group is “to create a broader, more united front on the transaction,” he said. Members are “united as to there’s no way to easily fix this and put a Band-Aid on it.”

Possible merger conditions “are inadequate,” said Jeffrey Blum, deputy general counsel for Dish, which has previously asked the government to kill the deal, in an interview. “The breadth and detail of the opposition is significant.”

A spokeswoman for Comcast said, “Hundreds of community organizations, programmers, lawmakers and diversity groups have praised the pro-consumer benefits of this transaction. It is no secret that some companies that want billions of dollars in higher fees for consumers are paying lobbying firms to organize against this transaction.”

Comcast had previously rejected arguments that its deal to acquire Time Warner Cable is bad for consumers or competitors and has offered its thoughts about why regulators should approve it.

This new group may not have a significant effect on the government’s review of the Time Warner Cable hookup since its members have already been lobbying against the deal individually.

Comcast competitors and opponents of the merger have been saying for months that questions raised by government regulators suggest the deal could be in trouble. Comcast officials have previously rejected that speculation.

It could still be several months before federal regulators make any decisions about whether to approve the deal or what conditions to require.

The review is being slowed down by an ongoing dispute between the FCC and TV programmers like CBS. The TV companies are unhappy about the agency’s plans to make its programming contracts with the cable companies available to outside parties as it reviews Comcast’s deal. The TV broadcasters have sued, and a federal appeals court is considering the issue.

Update: The FCC restarted its informal shotclock for considering the deal Wednesday morning. That doesn’t mean much, since the FCC routinely blows deadlines for considering mergers. But it does mark the official relaunch of the agency’s review.

Regulators have previously said they’d like to make a decision about the deal in the first quarter of 2015.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.

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