New Group Eyes Adelphia Conditions

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A coalition announced Wednesday that includes DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. is putting pressure on regulators to condition the takeover of Adelphia Communications Corp. by Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc.

DirecTV and EchoStar -- the country's largest satellite-TV providers, with 26 million subscribers combined -- fear either losing access to regional sports networks carried by Comcast and Time Warner or getting access but paying unfair rates. For several years, the two satellite carriers have complained about their inability to distribute Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.

The coalition complained in a press release that Time Warner Cable's exclusive rights to Charlotte Bobcats National Basketball Association games were representative of its concern about a regionally clustered cable company being able to exercise market power in a manner that impedes competition. A Time Warner Cable spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

In a statement that sidestepped the coalition's specific concerns, Comcast said the merger would accelerate broadband deployment and advanced services.

"We have demonstrated the benefits of these transactions to the appropriate reviewing agencies and, in the absence of legitimate objections, anticipate the timely completion of the approval process," Comcast said.

Comcast executive vice president David Cohen and EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen are scheduled to testify Thursday morning before the Senate Commerce Committee on indecent television content.

The Adelphia transaction -- a $17.6 billion deal in which Comcast and Time Warner Cable will divvy up about 5 million subscribers -- is pending before the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

The coalition is formally called the Competition and Diversity Coalition on the Adelphia Transaction (CADCAT). It also includes The America Channel, which claimed that it can't get carriage from Comcast and that it is being unfairly treated by the 22 million-subscriber cable giant.

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