Nobody loves Comcast, but its lobbyists don?t mind

Comcast’s announced Time Warner merger plans may fit in with Comcast’s long-term strategies, but it hasn’t gone over well with the public. According to polling company YouGov, “Since their merger announcement on February 13th, the US consumer perception of both Time-Warner Cable and Comcast has taken a significant dive.”

Admittedly, no cable company is terribly well-regarded, but Comcast and Time Warner dropped to their lowest level of popularity, well below other cable companies. Said YouGov:

“Both cable companies [Comcast and Time Warner] also displayed large drops in quality perception as well as the number of consumers willing to recommend the brands to their friends. Consumers may be concerned that the merged company will be less sensitive to their needs or may offer less value and fewer choices in the future.”

But Comcast seems guided by the famous words of 19th century railroad mogul William Vanderbilt: “The public be damned.” Instead Comcast is ramping up its lobbying efforts in Washington, where it can get the regulatory permission it needs without public acclaim.

How much ramping? According to Bloomberg News, Comcast has upped its lobbying expenditures “... by 23 times over 2001 levels, to $18.8 million last year – behind only Northrop Grumman Corp. in spending by a single company.”

Led by VP David Cohen, Comcast “...deploys more than 100 lobbyists, donates millions of dollars to politicians through its political action committee, gets help from charities it supports and enlists two former senators, three retired House members and an ex-Federal Communications Commission member.”

Of course, one can spend money in Washington without doing more than keeping former officials employed. But Comcast has won approval for its many transactions, including the massive 2011 takeover of NBC Universal, a company it now owns outright. Will they do the same with Time Warner?

Nothing is certain, but Comcast leaves little to chance. Former Justice Department antitrust counsel Gene Kimmelman told Bloomberg, “They are ubiquitous. They really have everything covered at the highest levels of skill and experience.”

Comcast and Time Warner Cable Merger Announcement (YouGov Brand Index, Feb. 28, 2014)

White House Aide at Soiree Shows Comcast Reach for Deals (Bloomberg News, Feb. 27, 2014)

Merger Has People Liking Comcast, Time Warner Brands Even Less (DSL Reports, Mar. 3, 2014)