Comcast scores a victory: A court lifted an FCC limit that said one company couldn’t serve more than 30% of all U.S. cable subscribers. As Comcast is getting close, it would not have been able to buy any other medium-to-large cable companies without challenging the limit.
WSJ’s Amy Schatz and Dawn Johnson: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the FCC “failed to demonstrate that allowing a cable operator to serve more than 30% of all cable subscribers would threaten to reduce either competition or diversity in programming.” Its decision effectively kills the cap.
After striking down the 30% lid in 2001, the court sent the matter back to the FCC, which spent six years looking at the issue before adopting it again in 2007, saying consumers would be harmed by allowing large cable operators to expand further.
Comcast was able to argue that there is “robust competition in the market” from satellite and telco TV services.
Many consumers would argue that that’s an absurd thing to say — cable and phone companies could be considered monopolistic thugs in many areas of the country.
But it’s true: As Comcast is slowly losing cable TV customers every quarter, its share of the U.S. cable subscriber base has actually slipped to 25% from 27% two years ago, the WSJ says. And as we recently illustrated, telco TV services are now kicking cable’s butt, taking more than 50% of the market for new customers despite being available in fewer places.
More good news: More video competition is likely to spring up from the Internet in the next several years, which might force cable companies to react with better pricing, more features, or actual customer service.
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