Smaller cable operators are bracing for what they expect will be higher fees charged by regional sports networks owned by the merged AT&T-DirecTV.
Following a series of conversations with the Federal Communications Commission, the American Cable Association said Tuesday it doesn’t look like the FCC will take any action to rein in escalating fees for must-see sports programming in Pittsburgh, Denver, Seattle and Houston.
“ACA is deeply disappointed that the FCC appears headed toward approving AT&T’s merger with DirecTV without shielding consumers from being overcharged,” said ACA president and CEO Matt Polka.
DirecTV owns three Root Sports regional sports networks and a fourth network is currently co-owned by AT&T and DirecTV.
“Unless the FCC changes direction, consumers will suffer when the Root Sports rate increases set in, when the threat or reality of sports blackouts ahead of marquee events proliferate, and when they lag in having access to broadband at speeds comparable to other urban markets. ACA calls on the FCC to do the right thing and protect consumers and competition,” Polka said.
The FCC is in the final days of completing its review of AT&T’s $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV. Though Wheeler said last month the agency is moving “with dispatch,” there is only speculation about when the decision will come. Most expect the FCC to clear the merger by the end of the month, but it could come any day.
No one expect the FCC to approve the deal without conditions. Knowing the deal is in the home stretch, interested parties are scrambling to try and sway the commission to place specific conditions on merger approval.
Reportedly, the Department of Justice has signed off on the merger, but the FCC’s informal review shot clock on the merger is still paused at day 170. AT&T and DirecTV recently extended the merger termination deadline, saying that a decision was “imminent.”