Top executives from AT&T and DirecTV will appear before a House Judiciary subcommittee to make the case for their proposed $48.5 billion merger. The deal faces anti-trust questions, as does the $45 billion proposed merger of rivals Comcast and Time-Warner. The final decision will be made by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.
AT&T already has a strong customer base in mobile phone and internet, and it has a smaller pay-TV business, U-verse. It wants DirecTV so it can compete better in the pay-TV market. With all the satellite subscribers from DirecTV, AT&T would end up with 25 percent market share nationwide, though it would still trail a merged Comcast-Time Warner.
Carl Howe, technology analyst at the Yankee Group, says all this consolidation may lead to fewer choices for consumers — especially since cable companies tend to lay lines to an entire neighborhood or city.
“The number of companies that serve any individual consumer is usually one or two,” says Howe. "When you shrink one or two down to one, that’s called a monopoly.”
And a monopoly could mean higher prices for cable-TV customers.
Antitrust attorney Mark Ostrau at Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West says companies that make television shows and other video material won’t welcome all these mergers among cable-TV distributors, either.
“They (the cable companies) really do compete both for content and for advertising,” says Ostrau. “If you’re a content provider, you would be very nervous about too much concentration.”
AT&T argues that the merger with DirecTV will allow it to bundle stations and services. The company claims that could lead to better prices for consumers.
The share of pay-TV market held by various companiesCabletv.com
Since the recession, U.S. employers' health care spending growth has been slowing from year to year. That's about to change, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.
The report says employer health care spending will accelerate in 2015, rising by 6.8 percent, a slightly faster rate of growth than what the company projected for 2014. The report’s authors say expensive specialty drugs will play a role in fueling the sharper rise in spending.
"It's actually a very big deal in terms of dollars. It's one of the reasons we single out that factor for 2015,” says Ceci Connolly, managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute.
Connolly points to a new treatment for Hepatitis C as an example of the new, high-cost drugs. Hepatitis C is a virus that causes liver disease and affects about 3 million Americans. One breakthrough drug, Sovaldi, can completely cure Hepatitis C in a high percentage of patients. But a twelve-week treatment costs $84,000.
However, in the case of Hepatitis C drugs, the hit to employers might not last long, according to Princeton University health care economist Uwe Reinhardt.
“Eventually all the people with Hep C will be cured, and all you have to do is deal with the new ones, which is not that heavy a growth,” he says.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers researchers say that in the short-term, employers will probably try to offset higher medical costs by shifting more of them to workers.
The economy faces great risks from climate change, according to a study by a bipartisan group of former business leaders and public officials. It predicts harsh consequences if action isn't taken.
Cuba's communist government has allowed the creation of small private businesses in recent years. An estimated 1 million Cubans have taken the plunge, making progress in fits and starts along the way.
There's a bear roaming the streets of the nation's capital. Not an actual bear, just a president who describes his recent efforts to escape the White House bubble in ursine terms.
Amish country in Ohio is being hit hard by a measles outbreak. Most Amish aren't vaccinated, so the disease has spread quickly. But a push for vaccination has found many takers.