Executives with the American Cable Association said Tuesday they all expect the Comcast/NBCU deal to be approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission by the beginning of next year.
On a conference call with journalists, ACA president Matt Polka said that the group was not looking to delay the deal, which he said would likely be approved "sometime soon," only to make sure it had conditions that ameliorated the possible harms to its members and customers. "We are not trying to delay the deal. We are trying to insure that conditions are imposed that address the concerns of smaller independent operators...in markets where our members directly compete against Comcast."
Polka said he expected the FCC would implement those conditions, which include requiring smaller operators be charged no more than a "clear market-based rate" for the regional sports nets and NBC owned and operated stations that will be owned by Comcast, as well as allowing a bargaining agent to negotiate collectively for national programming networks and use baseball style arbitration.
If the FCC does that, he said it would "significantly address" his members' concerns.
Also on the call were ACA chairman Steve Friedman, COO of Wave Broadband, and Colleen Abdullah, CEO of WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone. Both agreed with Polka that the deal was going through, and both were in town for some face time with FCC commissioners and others to press their case in person as the government merger reviews start winding down. Abdullah called it a chance to give the FCC a "front line" account, and said the reception had been "thoughtful and serious," and that the commissioners and their staff "see the seriousness of a transaction of that size."
Polka said ACA had had numerous meetings with the transaction teams at Justice and the FCC over the past couple of months, though they had not given any indication of what conditions might be applied. "We are confident that they have heard us and understand the need for certainty and fairness" in a rate for regional sports and NBC stations.
And if the FCC does not adopt those conditions, what will the impact be on ACA members' customers? "$2.6 billion in harm," said Polka, referring to an ACA analysis of potential economic fallout from a combined Comcast/NBCU. "In addition to rising programming fees that rise considerably month after month."