Beneficence is Beside the Point: The Antitrust Realities of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger

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Geoffrey Manne, Apr 14, 2014

Critics of Comcast have long discussed the cable company as if it were sinister monster aiming at complete dominance of American media by consuming all competitors.The merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal was thought to be a tipping point in consolidation that would allow Comcast to choke competition in the cable, content, and broadband markets. All evidence indicates these fears were exaggerated, to say the least.

Nonetheless, and keeping with tradition, the “big-is-bad” critics have again come out against Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. But while the merger is significant in size, it doesn’t give rise to any plausible theory of anticompetitive harm under modern antitrust analysis.

In a recent essay, Allan Grunes & Maurice Stucke pose a thought experiment: If Comcast can acquire TWC, what’s to stop it acquiring all cable companies?┬áThe authors’ assertion is that the arguments being put forward to support the merger contain no “limiting principle,” and that the same arguments, if accepted here, would unjustifiably permit further consolidation. In a second essay in this volume, Grunes & Stucke anticipate defenses of the merger, and argue each fails to give good reason to allow it.┬áBut there is a limiting principle: competitive harm. Size doesn’t matter, as courts have repeatedly reiterated.

This overwhelming concern about Comcast’s apparent dominanc…

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