Free Press, Consumer Groups Call on Antitrust Authorities and Congress to Investigate 'TV Everywhere'

New Report Shows Cable and Media Giants Colluding to Kill Competition for Online TV
Contact Info: 

Liz Rose, Communications Director, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x32

WASHINGTON -- Free Press and other consumer groups are calling on federal antitrust authorities and Congress to investigate agreements among giant media companies to stifle competition in the emerging market for online television programming.

This call for an investigation is based on a Free Press report released today. In the report, Free Press details how giant cable, satellite and phone companies and many leading programming networks, led by Comcast and Time Warner, are colluding on an industry-wide initiative called "TV Everywhere" that requires consumers to pay for cable TV subscriptions to access online programming. While being marketed as a consumer-friendly feature, TV Everywhere is designed to eliminate the threat of online competition, limit consumer choice, and build on the cable TV model that gouges consumers.

"This is a textbook antitrust violation," said Marvin Ammori, a law professor at the University of Nebraska, senior adviser to Free Press, and author of the report. "The old media giants are working together to kill off innovative online competitors and carve up the market for themselves. TV Everywhere is designed to eliminate competition at a pivotal moment in the history of television. The antitrust authorities should not stand by and let the cable cartel crush Internet TV before it gets off the ground."

Read TV Competition Nowhere: How the Cable Industry Is Colluding to Kill Online TV here: http://www.freepress.net/files/TV-Nowhere.pdf

On Dec. 15, Comcast became the first company to launch its TV Everywhere product, under the brand "Fancast Xfinity"; the other dominant cable, satellite and phone companies have announced plans to follow suit. Using published statements by industry executives and news reports about industry discussions, Free Press demonstrates in the report that the TV Everywhere initiative rests on an illegal agreement among competitors -- and that the initiative would not be possible without this illegal collusion.

"Internet TV could actually inject much needed competition into a TV market long dominated by cable companies -- this is a valuable opportunity to provide greater innovation for consumers," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "More competition means lower prices for consumers. The Internet offers the potential for democratizing the TV screen now controlled by a handful of powerful media companies. We urge antitrust authorities to move immediately to promote competition."

Parul Desai of Media Access Project said, "This is an important test for Congress and the antitrust authorities to make sure dominant old media companies don't kill off potential sources of innovative, new competition just as consumers are getting accustomed to the possibility of that new competition."

The consumer groups -- which include Free Press, Media Access Project, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, Public Knowledge, and the Participatory Culture Foundation -- filed letters with the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and congressional committees with jurisdiction over competition issues and media and broadband Internet services.

Read the report here: http://www.freepress.net/files/TV-Nowhere.pdf

Read the letter to the Department of Justice here

Read the letter to the Federal Trade Commission here

Read the letter to Sens. Leahy and Sessions here

Read the letter to Sens. Rockefeller and Hutchison here

Read the letter to Reps. Waxman and Barton here

 

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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