Viamedia Fires Back on Comcast/TWC

Says Merged MSOs Would Control Too Much on Spot Cable Market

Cable ad outsourcer Viamedia says the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merg would adversely impact the spot cable market unless the FCC puts conditions on the deal.

That came in an FCC filing this week responding to Comcast's assertion that concerns about the spot cable market are "unfounded."

On Aug. 22, Comcast told the FCC that Viamedia's complaints that the deal would hurt small spot cable buyers, lodged with the New York Public Service Commission, was not legitimate, in part because the relevant market is the whole ad pie, not just cable.

"As noted, cable advertising is just a small part of the local advertising marketplace, and advertisers have numerous local options both on television and elsewhere," Comcast said. "The fact that Comcast today manages interconnects in other regions is irrelevant to the competitive analysis, since these interconnects do not compete with the TWC interconnects that Comcast will come to manage after the Transactions. Like other issues raised in this proceeding, Viamedia’s advocacy is driven not by a legitimate concern about competition but rather by its own business objectives."

In its response, Viamedia said the conditions it proposed are specific to the deal and that the combined company would control a 71% share of the spot cable market.

As to its argument being driven by its "own business objectives," Viamedia said: "In fact, Viamedia’s advocacy is consistent with the concerns expressed by much of the cable advertising industry, as supported in comments from the American Cable Association, RCN Telecom Services, LLC/Grande Communications Networks, LLC, and CenturyLink."

"[C]onsent to the proposed Transactions would eliminate the existing head-to-head competition between Comcast Spotlight and TWC Media Sales. Further, consent to the proposed Transactions would allow Comcast to force smaller MVPDs to enter into spot cable advertising representation contracts with Comcast in cases where the MVPD needs access to all of the Interconnects..."

In comments on the deal Viamedia had said Comcast/TWC would control "approximately $4.5 billion of the $5.4 billion national spot cable advertising market."

To prevent that, it proposed the following structural conditions:

"Prohibit Comcast from controlling, representing or managing Interconnects;

"Require that Comcast transfer majority control over NCC [NCC Media is a cable sales firm jointly owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox]

"Require Comcast to transfer either its own or TWC’s Spot Cable Advertising Representation firm business;

"Prohibit Comcast from representing Spot Cable Advertising for the subscribers Comcast or TWC is transferring to Charter and SpinCo."