TESTIMONY OF COLLEEN ABDOULAH
PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, WOW!
BOARD MEMBER, AMERICAN CABLE ASSOCIATION
BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMUNICATIONS,
TECHNOLOGY AND THE INTERNET
AN EXAMINATION OF THE PROPOSED COMBINATION OF COMCAST AND NBC UNIVERSAL
FEBRUARY 4, 2010
Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to appear today to testify on the proposed combination of Comcast and NBC Universal. My name is Colleen Abdoulah, President and CEO of WOW!, a terrestrial-based competitive provider of cable television and other broadband-related services operating in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. In those markets, we face some of the most intense competition in the United States, going toe-to-toe with multiple providers of video, Internet, and voice service.
Customers appreciate having a choice of communications providers, and when they choose WOW!, it is because we offer great value at a fair price. Our true differentiation is the customer experience we provide, from the products we offer, to how we sell, install, and service them. It is for that reason that I am especially proud that Consumer Reports just ranked WOW! as the "Number 1" provider of video, Internet, and voice services in the United States, outperforming AT&T, Comcast, and satellite providers. In addition, in 2009, we were ranked highest by J.D. Power and Associates for overall customer satisfaction among television, Internet, and residential phone providers in the North Central Region. WOW! has received 10 of these awards in the past five years. These awards are not serendipitous. Since our inception, WOW! has been dedicated to caring for and respecting our customers, and it is heartening that in turn our customers appreciate what we do for them.
In our Chicago and Detroit markets, covering approximately 1 million households, as a multi-channel video distributor (MVPD), WOW! competes directly with Comcast's cable systems. It also competes with both Comcast and NBC's television stations in the local advertising market and now with their Internet distribution platforms. Equally as important, especially in the context of the proposed combination, WOW! is a major consumer of content from Comcast and NBC Universal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) classifies some of this content as "must have" programming, and we know that other content is much in-demand by our customers. In reviewing this proposed combination, it is not critical that content be "non-replicable" or "must have" - only that the content be sufficiently desirable to enable the entity owning or controlling it to possess market power as a result. Moreover, once an entity has "market power content," it can, and many do today, leverage it in a number of ways, many of which are discussed in this testimony. For instance, television network owners with market power today, bundle their low-value content with higher-value networks, which in essence compels WOW! to carry non-consumer requested programming. In sum, WOW! has a major vested interest in the federal government's review of the proposed combination to ensure that it neither harm consumers nor a vibrant competitive marketplace.
I am also here on behalf of the American Cable Association (ACA), which represents approximately 900 smaller MVPDs that operate in every state. Just like WOW!, many of these providers compete as described above with Comcast and NBC Universal, and all of them are consumers of content from these two entities. So, harms caused by the proposed combination will be felt across the country.(This is just a portion of the testimony to read the full testimony please click on the pdf below).
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