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Comcast-Time Warner merger continues to raise concerns

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Speaking of Time Warner, House Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised concerns Thursday about Comcast's proposed alliance with Time Warner Cable, including the possibility that the company would gain too much market power of the lineup of channels and programming over its systems.

Several lawmakers in the House Judiciary Committee hearing wondered how consumers would benefit from the deal. Comcast executives have previously said that consumers shouldn't expect to see price cuts if the deal is approved by federal regulators. "What can be done to help lower prices?" asked Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, who said she has heard from constituents concerned about steadily more expensive monthly cable bills. Meanwhile, Comcast executive VP David Cohen said the deal "has the potential to slow the increase in prices."

While none of the lawmakers asked regulators to block the transaction, both Republicans and Democrats cautioned there were potential negatives in the $45 billion deal. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican, worried that small programmers may not be able to sell video to cable operators. Rep. John Conyers, a Democratic critic of big mergers in general, said a combined Comcast/Time Warner Cable would have 30 percent of the cable market, at least 40 percent of the broadband market, 19 of the 20 biggest cable markets and a major Spanish-language channel, as well as movies and television shows and sports programming.

The Justice Department and the FCC will have final say on the deal, but lawmakers typically weigh in with concerns that are taken into account during the review process.

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