Light Reading

Comcast-TWC Deal Stalls Netflix Cable Push

Mari Silbey

With the ink barely dry on Comcast's deal to buy Time Warner Cable, Netflix is already feeling the effects of one of the industry's biggest proposed mergers on record.

Bloomberg is reporting that talks between Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) to put the video streaming service on cable set-top boxes have been put on hold until TWC's acquisition by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) (which still must be approved by regulators) is completed. That, in turn, could throw a big monkey wrench into Netflix's plans to start taking the US cable industry by storm this year.

Netflix has gained some traction with cable operators in Europe and currently has its streaming service on set-tops from Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) and com hem AB . However, the video rental giant has not been able to close any deals with cable providers in the US. Time Warner Cable was apparently considering an agreement with Netflix, but those negotiations have been put on the back burner now thanks to the Comcast merger deal. (See Com Hem Rolls Out Netflix.)

There are fears in the video industry, especially among content providers, that a combined Comcast/TWC entity would control too much of the television distribution network in the US. It's not just size that's at issue. Comcast is also much more cautious than Time Warner Cable about partnering with alternative platform providers, and much more ambitious about rolling out its own services that are competitive with over-the-top (OTT) offerings.

For example, while Comcast has its own app on the Xbox 360, it hasn't followed TWC's lead in pushing an app out to numerous other video platforms. Comcast has also blocked HBO Go for its subscribers on the Roku box, preventing users from accessing more content from Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) on a Roku Inc. device than they can on a Comcast set-top.

On the services side, Comcast has been aggressive about building up its video-on-demand (VoD) library. Plus, the company's Streampix offering is a first step into the subscription-based VOD rental market, where it competes against the likes of Netflix. (See Comcast Goes OTT to Target Netflix, Hulu Plus.)

Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, has followed a strategy of offering its core video service on as many different video platforms as possible. The company added Kindle Fire tablets from Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) to its distribution list in December alongside iOS and Android devices, Roku players, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Xbox 360, and select Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) connected TVs. There are also rumors that TWC was planning to debut service on the new Apple TV set-top device, which Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is targeting for launch in April. (See TW Cable Says: Just Keep Streaming.)

There is no way to know how Comcast might proceed in talks with Netflix if and when the acquisition of TWC is completed. However, Comcast's track record suggests that Netflix may need to reconsider its near-term plans for a cable partnership. The perspective from the cable industry has changed.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 5:38:56 PM
I think that's unfortunate, and the X1 would only be better for including additional content options for users. Have been using a Roku 3 for the first time lately and have been very impressed with the myriad of additional channels. I understand Comcast wants to funnel consumers to their own content options and Streampix, but it seems to me like giving consumers some additional options wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for a company with one of the worst customer satisfaction scores in any industry.
User Rank: Blogger
2/18/2014 | 8:20:02 PM
Re: Unfortunate
I agree, Karl. I think one of the best things that TWC has done is give customers these other platforms and options for services. Comcast is fancying itself too much like Apple, but without the same level of customer service. We'll see how much TWC customers complain pnce the deal goes thru. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 7:37:20 AM
Control of content
The concern over control of content is certainly legitimate, and could be an item that regulators consider closely before letting a deal go through. I'm not sure the objections will hold up in today's environment -- there used to be rules about concentration of media holdings in a local market, but they've gone by the wayside.
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 7:54:47 AM
Re: Control of content
The Comcast-TWC deal is certainly going to find some valid objections. It may very well be that when the deal solidifies lots of providers may be locked out, like the Netflix deal. Whether regulators will take a careful look at how the merger will play out in reality is of great concern to the industry.
From The Founder
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Tail-f, Cisco & What the Future Holds

10|9|15   |   8:17   |   (0) comments

Steve Saunders meets with Tail-f's Director of Technology, Carl Moberg, in Stockholm to discuss becoming part of Cisco, ETSI MANO, virtualization and the need to combine science and business in order to create opportunities for service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Broadband Forum Embraces SDN & NFV

10|9|15   |   02:42   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Robin Mersh and Kevin Foster from the Broadband Forum explain how the industry body is adapting to meet the SDN, NFV and cloud needs of the access network sector.
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Network Security in a Gigabit World

10|6|15   |   05:52   |   (0) comments

Masergy's James Harrison talks about some of the network security and data center issues network operators need to consider as they expand their broadband services portfolios.
LRTV Documentaries
Telefónica: In Search of Virtual Simplicity

10|5|15   |   07:30   |   (0) comments

Francisco-Javier Ramon Salguero, head of Telefónica's NFV initiative, admits virtualization initially means greater complexity, but with the right abstraction layer, it is possible to create a services-driven network architecture. He explains how Telefónica's current trials and initiatives are aimed at doing that, and what his company and other carriers need to ...
LRTV Interviews
Gigabit Europe Takeaways

10|5|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Participants from the inaugural Gigabit Europe event in Munich share their key takeaways from the conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Urges Women to Take Advantage of Their Seat at the Table

10|5|15   |   4:27   |   (1) comment

Have inclusive and constructive conversations, attach a bigger meaning to your work and get involved in the cause, Intel's Monique Hayward advises women in comms.
LRTV Interviews
BT Updates on Plans

10|2|15   |   03:16   |   (2) comments

Peter Bell, CIO at Openreach, the access network division at UK incumbent BT, provides an update on the operator's trials and how Openreach is planning to deploy the broadband technology in its street cabinets.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/6/2015
Cisco's Chambers Rules Out Political Bid
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/6/2015
Infinera Fleshes Out Its Metro 100G Story
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/7/2015
AT&T Gets Green Light for VoWiFi
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/7/2015
Cord Cutting? 'Fraid so.
Brett Sappington, 10/7/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here