Comcast Said to Be in Talks to Buy 21st Century Fox Assets

Brooks Barnes and Michael J. de la Merced, New York Times:

Comcast, the cable giant and owner of NBCUniversal, is in preliminary talks to buy entertainment assets owned by 21st Century Fox, including a vast overseas television distribution business, the Fox movie studio, the FX cable network and a group of regional sports channels.

Under the deal being discussed, the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox, would retain the Fox News cable network, certain sports holdings, a chain of local television stations and the Fox broadcast network.

Disney is also rumoured to be interested in these Fox assets, as is Sony. All of these companies are gigantic media conglomerates, Comcast being the largest in the United States, Disney being the second largest, and 21st Century Fox third.

One thing that’s absolutely critical to understand when considering questions about media ownership and net neutrality is that there are few major media companies that are in single lines of business. Increasingly, these conglomerates are becoming vertically integrated with unprecedented reach: they finance movies and television, distribute and market their programming, some provide the cable and internet services that transmit video to viewers’ computers and televisions, and many own or have major stakes in streaming platforms as well. So as the FCC contemplates dismantling net neutrality regulations, they are helping create a situation in which Comcast could conceivably own and prioritize their media assets from their production to your couch, while restricting competition. Imagine if heyday-era General Motors owned everything from steel mills to parts of the Interstate system, but instead of transportation, it’s information and entertainment.

I maintain that Comcast should never have been allowed to buy NBCUniversal. That kind of cross-market dominance is toxic for competition. A similar mistake should be avoided by blocking their purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment businesses as well.