A golf channel tells Congress: Comcast-TWC would hurt little guys like them


From left: Comcast's David Cohen, law professor Christopher Yoo, Time Warner Cable's Arthur Minson Jr., Back9Network chief executive James Bosworth and Spot On Networks chief executive Richard Sherwin attend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger Wednesday. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Back9Network, a golf lifestyle cable channel, fears that the merger between Comcast and Time Warner could spell the end of its business.

The remarks by the CEO of the independent programming firm were made during a Senate Judiciary hearing on the proposed $45 billion cable and Internet mega merger. James Bosworth, chief executive of the Hartford-based network, told lawmakers that for an independent programmer to succeed, it needs its channel to be carried by one of the big four paid television providers: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish or Direct TV.

Back9Network  was set to be carried on Time Warner Cable this year. But when Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced their proposed merger in February, Bosworth said, Back9Network's negotiations "stalled." He said the elimination of Time Warner Cable as a top carrier of paid television services will make it even harder for a company like his to get off the ground. Bosworth worries that with Comcast's competing golf channel, "the incentive is for the merged company not to carry us."

Such public remarks by an independent programming firm are rare. Companies have complained privately to lawmakers, regulators and public interest groups about their concerns the merger would concentrate too much power in the hands of Comcast. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said independent programmers have relayed their fears to her but were hesitant to go public with their complaints because of Comcast's outsized power over the entertainment, cable and Internet markets.

Comcast would control about 30 percent of the paid television market and more than 40 percent of the broadband Internet market.

"What will happen to the next Neflix that today is just a dream in a garage?" Klobuchar said at the hearing.

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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