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Hail the cable TV king! Will a Comcast & Time Warner Cable merger be bad for consumers?

A sign stands in front of a Comcast customer service center on August 3, 2011 in San Rafael, California.
A sign stands in front of a Comcast customer service center on August 3, 2011 in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The two biggest cable companies in the US want permission to merge into one giant media behemoth that would provide cable TV to nearly one-third of all homes in the country. Comcast has announced that it wants to buy rival Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal worth $45.2 billion.

Regulators still have to approve the deal and it's not clear if the new company would be too big to pass muster with antitrust authorities and consumer watchdogs. The two companies don't currently compete so the change may not be a major upheaval for consumers. But given how much customers love to hate their cable company - this giant merger isn't likely to earn them any fans.

Consumer advocates say it will reduce innovation and drive up prices. The corporations say the merger will actually speed up the release of new consumer products such as Comcast's X1 operating system.

But is cable TV still a necessity in today's world? Cable providers have endless competition from streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV as well as online content services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon. Given that, it'll be interesting to see if federal regulators decide that the new company will be too much of a monopoly over customers' televisions.

In the meantime, we can always speculate what the new company will be called: ComWarnerCast? ComCable? CoTiWaCa?


Steve Effros, analyst and lawyer in the cable industry based in Virginia. Former president of Cable Telecommunications Association, a precursor of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the main cable trade association.

Jodie Griffin, Senior Staff Attorney with Public Knowledge, a consumer rights group based in Washington D.C.