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Time was, world leaders sent subtle messages by revealing the books at their bedside. More recently, they have offered glances at their iPods. But as US president Barack Obama prepared for a three-day weekend escape in southern California, the White House wanted to make sure that you knew what TV shows he’d be watching.
“Where is my True Detective and Game of Thrones?” Obama asked the chief executive of HBO, which broadcasts both shows, at a state dinner this week. A few days later, the president indicated he was also looking forward to Netflix’s political drama House of Cards. ”No spoilers, please,” he cheekily tweeted.
Television has more cultural currency than ever. That may help explain the outsized reaction to Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which emerged after negotiations that ranged from a boardroom overlooking New York’s Central Park to the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. Mergers and acquisitions don’t typically get anyone hot or bothered, outside of the bankers involved. But this deal had much of America talking about the nation’s two largest cable companies and the imposing conglomerate they will create, if regulators approve.
Nobody in America likes their cable company. These firms are near-monopolistic providers of a highly coveted product—True Detective really is quite good, by the way—delivered with poor service at an ever-rising price. Comcast, as the owner of NBCUniversal, is also a behemoth in the content business. And when you are fed up and ready to “cut the cord,” it turns out the same companies control your internet pipes, too.
Indeed, the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will ultimately matter more to broadband internet than TV in the United States. Though by then, the difference will be moot. The president’s weekend viewing of both premium cable network HBO and internet video provider Netflix says it all. —Zachary M. Seward [Share this]
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