Media & Tech converge at the frontiers of modern antitrust

The media-tech landscape is undergoing a generational transformation. A consumer revolution for a la carte programming was the rallying cry that kicked things off. Streaming first offered film, then TV series, and eventually original content. More recently, it has expanded to news, other live TV programming, and sports. Cord cutters now turn to an ever-growing patchwork of entertainment options from a increasingly shrinking cast of media and technology companies (the distinction between a tech and media company rapidly dissolving). Soon, perhaps accelerated by industry consolidation, that content will get re-bundled and consumers will find themselves subscribing to the digital equivalent of the cable package they were running away from.

The disruption, innovation, and jockeying for position in this new tech-media landscape is fueling a flurry of transactional and deal-making activity. The result are mergers, acquisitions, and collaborations by some of the largest tech companies in the world, internet service providers and mobile carriers, online publishers and content distributors, and the holders of the most storied catalogs of creative content. When it comes to the bigger among them, exclusive dealing, loss leader pricing, and early-to-market advantages also factor into who is winning and who is losing at this new game.

And right as the media and tech space experiences all of this tumult, the antitrust laws face a revolution of their own. A new brand of enforcers are trying to rethink what competition policy should be, with a more expansive vision for antitrust now guiding law enforcement in the US. Tim Wu, a top competition policy advisor for the White House, Line Khan, the new Chair of the FTC, and Jon Kanter, the new Chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, and some influential state Attorneys General are rethinking how century-old antitrust laws should be enforced in today‚Äôs tech-based economy. The intersection of media and tech seems to be the early proving grounds for this “modern” form of antitrust.

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