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Pay-TV possibilities holding up mega mergers, Comcast-TWC and DirecTV-AT&T

October 27th, 2014

The headquarters building of U.S. satellite TV operator DirecTV is seen in Los AngelesThe FCC has suspended its detailing into the mega media mergers with both Comcast/Time Warner Cable, and DirecTV/AT&T as the Justice Department and FCC look into how pay-tv subscriptions and direct-to-consumer streaming could affect the TV and media landscape.

As reported in Reuters, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday paused its informal “shot clock” deadline on the reviews of the proposed mergers of AT&T Inc  and DirecTV and of Comcast Corp  and Time Warner Cable Inc over the issue of confidential programming agreements.

The FCC, which will determine whether the deals are in the public interest, said it will pause its self-imposed, 180-day shot-clock deadline to decide how to handle highly confidential documents related to agreements with media companies.

The FCC’s review of the $48.5 billion merger of wireless carrier AT&T and satellite TV provider DirecTV on Wednesday was in day 76 of the 180-day deadline. The review of the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal earlier had been stopped at day 85.

The FCC is weighing how to resolve a hitch in collecting and reviewing agreements that pay-TV companies have signed with media companies, such as CBS Corp  and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc , to offer their content to subscribers.

Content companies have expressed concerns about sharing the details of such agreements with the FCC, saying the agency’s filing process threatened the documents’ high level of confidentiality and risked giving competitors insight into sensitive business arrangements.

The FCC is reviewing the deals alongside the Justice Department, whose antitrust review also includes such documents but is confidential.

 Two interesting disclosures, both from NBCU chief Steve Burke, during Comcast’s quarterly call with analysts this morning. He says, without detail, that the company’s thinking about “taking some of our existing sports on other channels and putting them on USA.” Also, in response to questions, he says that he was surprised — but not especially concerned — by HBO and CBS’ announcements last week about their streaming plans. “I don’t think distributing directly to consumers via the Internet is an easy thing to do.” He disagrees with commentators who say the initiatives could promote a la carte pay TV offerings. “Both HBO and CBS are trying to add to their existing ecosystem,” not change it. But it will be especially challenging for HBO to do so without cannibalizing some of its “very high margin” cable customers. “It will be interesting to see how that works.” More below in our live blog of the earnings call.

Categories: DISH & TV news

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