| WASHINGTON, April 8
WASHINGTON, April 8 Executives from Veria
Living, a U.S. cable television channel, met in March with
Justice Department officials who are digging into the Comcast
deal to buy Time Warner Cable, even before the government was
formally notified of the proposed transaction, Veria's CEO told
Veria chief Eric Sherman said he and other company
executives met with nine Justice Department antitrust attorneys,
including two trial attorneys, on March 10 for nearly 90 minutes
after Veria contacted the department.
Comcast Corp said in February that it planned to
buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion, and
formally requested antitrust approval on March 31.
Sherman told Reuters that the Justice Department attorneys
asked about obstacles that small independent channels like Veria
Living might face in getting picked up by cable giants like
Comcast or Time Warner Cable.
That line of questioning suggests one of the elements that
the U.S. government could focus on as it considers the potential
implications of the merger.
The Federal Communications Commission will examine whether
the deal is in the public interest while the Justice Department
will determine whether it complies with antitrust law.
Smaller channels worry that since Comcast also owns NBC
Universal, which has its own rich trove of movies and television
shows, they will have little chance of being added to a cable
That situation will become worse if Time Warner Cable
becomes part of Comcast, some small channels have said.
The problem of content providers was also an issue when the
government approved Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal in 2011.
As part of that approval, Comcast pledged to provide 10 new
independent channels. It has added five so far.
Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said that the company
was proud of its relationship with independent programmers.
"Channel carriage has costs both in direct and indirect ways
which must be balanced for our consumers. We continue to work to
carry a wide variety of channels that our customers most want in
a balanced way," Fitzmaurice said in a statement.
Veria, which focuses on health and wellness programming, is
carried by DISH Network, FiOS, RCN and others but not by Comcast
or Time Warner Cable.
Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen and Time Warner
Cable's finance chief, Arthur Minson, are among those scheduled
to testify about the deal on Wednesday before the Senate
(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros Krasny
and Jonathan Oatis)