AT&T’s bid to buy DirecTV has been floating under the radar, drawing neither the scrutiny nor the scorn of Comcast’s recently abandoned proposal to buy Time Warner Cable.
But that doesn’t make the deal any better for consumers.
AT&T’s proposal to acquire DirecTV has been in the shadow of the Comcast deal ever since it was announced a year ago, on the heels of Comcast’s proposed tie-up. That’s starting to change. Now that the Comcast-Time Warner deal is off the table, regulators, consumer groups and others have begun to turn their focus to the AT&T merger. Last week, for example, Netflix submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to reject the deal “as currently proposed.”
Such sentiments may be too little and too late. If the reports and rumors coming out of Washington are true, federal regulators are likely to wrap up their review of the AT&T-DirecTV merger soon, and are likely to approve it.
That would be a grave mistake. Having allowed way too much consolidation in the past, regulators should be pushing for more competition in the telecommunications market, not acquiescing to less.
Less competition is exactly what you’d get if AT&T and DirecTV are allowed to merge. In the Bay Area, the two companies compete head-to-head for pay-TV customers, and we’re not alone. AT&T offers video services to more than 20 percent of the households in the country; in pretty much all those areas, which include major markets like Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, DirecTV is a competing option.
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