Discovery hires D.C. lobbyists in Comcast-Time Warner merger

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David Zaslav. (AP for Discovery Communications Inc)
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Alex Weprin

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Discovery Communications has retained the services of D.C. consulting firm The Glover Park Group to lobby in regards to the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

According to a registration form filed to the Secretary of the U.S. Senate, Discovery has retained four staffers from Glover Park Group to work on “pending media transactions.”

A spokesperson for Discovery Communications confirmed to Capital on Wednesday that the transaction in question is Comcast-Time Warner Cable.

The filing shines new light on comments about media consolidation made Tuesday by Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav at the Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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“When less distributors are buying your content in the traditional way it can present some challenges," Zaslav said. “You’ll probably see some more consolidation on the content side in order to balance that scale.

“There’s a lot of people asking the question, are they big enough?” he added.

Discovery wants to make sure that the Obama Administration and members of Congress are fully aware of its concerns with the proposed merger. While the filing only shows that Glover Park will be providing lobbying services for Discovery, the firm also provides strategic communications, advertising and marketing services.

Discovery may be lobbying against the deal outright, or could be pushing for it to pass with government conditions that would benefit content producers.

For the most part, content companies and other major media companies have been quiet about the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, save for general statements about following the matter. Given that Comcast is already the largest cable company in the country, some media executives on the content side of the business have privately expressed concern about a reprisal from the cable company if they expressed strong public opposition.

Exceptions have included Dish C.E.O. Charlie Ergen, who told F.C.C. officials this week that he believes the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger should be blocked, and expressed skepticism about the proposed DirecTV-AT&T merger.

Comcast pushed back in a statement Wednesday.

“Dish has long been one of our most vigorous competitors, and unlike us has a national footprint available in tens of millions of more homes than a combined Comcast –Time Warner Cable," a Comcast spokesperson told Variety. "Dish not wanting stronger competitors isn’t surprising and it isn’t new. Any issues regarding NBCUniversal programming and other video services, whether they be traditional or over the top are already amply covered by pre-existing FCC rules and deal conditions.”

Univision C.E.O. Randy Falco also expressed public concern with the deal back in April. Univision’s chief competitor is Telemundo, which is owned by Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal.

“When you have the number one and number two cable providers come together, it’s truly a cause for concern, requires greater scrutiny by the government for approval, obviously, and you’re hoping at the very least that there is that scrutiny and potentially much tougher restrictions added to the existing consent decree that will protect Comcast competitors such as Univision who are serving minority communities,” Falco said on an earnings call.