Opinion Columns & Blogs

Proposed TV mergers place potential limitations on consumers

I don’t remember when cable and satellite replaced the ubiquitous antenna, or which house I lived in when that slinky cable first intruded into my living space like a serpent settling into a corner nest. In the beginning the only change was a few more channels, but in time they multiplied, as did the dollars.

While searching for a cheaper alternative, I discovered Netflix, and for just $10 a month a flurry of shinny DVD’s began appearing in my mailbox. I was a happy camper until my daughter began talking about the magic of a DVR, and I knew I had to have one. And for just a slight upgrade, the cable company was happy to oblige me, only before I knew it the slight upgrade turned into a myriad of upgrades, and once again I was in debt to the cable company.

It was greed, which had gotten me entangled in this financial nightmare of liability, my greed for more programming, and the cable company’s greed for more money.

When I moved to my current home, I was determined to keep my TV viewing simple. This time I clearly specified only one upgrade that included a DVR (I just couldn’t give up my DVR) with satellite service provided by my new apartment community.

Impatiently, I waited two weeks to be connected to the apartment satellite. Inwardly I groaned as my beloved shows passed me by one by one without being recorded, but on the upside I did find more time for reading and socializing. When I shared my experience with some of my girlfriends, one of my friends mentioned that she had wondered why she was seeing more of me lately, a comment that gave me room to pause, and I promised myself to continue to do more socializing and less TV watching.

But I have to admit that I couldn’t give it up altogether. I was a true addict.

So, when I stumbled across the proposed two mega – deals, Comcast’s attempt to acquire Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s announcement to take over Direct TV, I had to ask myself how these proposals would affect my TV watching. How are these potential upcoming mergers in the broadcasting industry going to impose on my needs for information and entertainment? Will each of my favorite shows still be available? And even more importantly, will I still be able to afford them? What will my options be?

This is what I found. In spite of the overwhelming amount of viewers affected by these deals, they are not considered monopolies, and it is likely that both mergers will be allowed to move forward. It is up to the government to place safeguards to protect the consumer.

However, there are a large number of concerns. Controlling both a massive amount of TV viewers as well as high-speed broadband Internet subscribers offers both mergers far reaching powers that could bring a drastic halt to streaming Internet services as well as narrowing the choices to broadcast TV watching. Comcast has already made a practice of favoring it’s own stations over competitors as well as interfering with online competition.

It is feared by opponents that both mergers would seriously reduce the number of content providers limiting consumers’ options while raising their costs. In my community alone, dozens of my neighbors have opted out of traditional TV in order to stay within budget through the various means of streaming now made available with technological advances. These new mergers could block alternative pathways to consumer viewing or at the very least deliver stuttering interruptions.

One of my neighbors had recently invited me into her apartment in order to share her newly acquired Fire TV, a voice activated streaming device, which allows Amazon to provide Internet service for movies and TV shows. I was very impressed. She receives all her TV programming that doesn’t fall under basic entertainment, which is included in rent, by streaming through Fire TV and Netflix leaving her total viewing costs at $10 a month.

As much as I hated the thought of having to learn additional technology in order to watch TV, I was seriously considering following her example. However, after reading about the potential issues with the Comcast/Time Warner merger and the AT&T Direct TV buyout, I find myself in a dilemma. I might just have to quit this addiction of mine.

Maybe I should buy a radio.

  Comments