House Dem warns Dodgers fight may hurt Comcast merger

One House Democrat is saying that Time Warner Cable’s treatment of Dodgers fans could negatively impact the outlook of its merger with Comcast.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) — who has pushed for a resolution to a cable dispute preventing more than half the people in Los Angeles from watching Dodgers games — said on Wednesday that regulators at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be watching the company’s behavior now, as an indication of how it would behave after the $49 billion merger to combine the nation’s two largest cable companies.

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“I think the FCC should watch that and I’m definitely watching that,” he told The Hill in an interview.

“To me, what people’s behavior is like when they’re of a certain size indicates what they’re likely to be like when they get bigger and more vertically integrated," he added. "Because as companies get bigger and more vertically integrated, the more powerful they get and the more likely they can choose to be fairer or less fair with the players who would like to do business with them."

Most Dodgers games are currently shown on SportsNet LA, a channel owned by the team but to which Time Warner Cable has distribution rights. The deal between the cable company and the team is reportedly worth as much as $8 billion, and Time Warner Cable has asked other cable and satellite providers to pay high fees to carry the channel.

So far all have passed, which has left the nearly two-thirds of people in the area who are not Time Warner Cable subscribers unable to watch their team’s games all season long.

“Consumers ended up suffering,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a House Small Business Committee hearing on Wednesday. “That’s not right.”

This week, Time Warner Cable announced a deal to have the final week’s worth of regular season games shown on local broadcast stations.

Cárdenas hoped that the move would build momentum for a long-term solution.

“Appreciate the gesture, but that’s not a permanent fix,” he said.

In the meantime, L.A. lawmakers say their constituents are feeling the burn.

“I got a lot of calls in my office from small businesses, many of them are restaurants [and] sports bars who really depend on those local games being broadcast,” Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) told Wheeler at Wednesday’s hearing. “A lot of our small businesses really were impacted by this silly dispute.”