The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into whether Comcast, the largest U.S. cable provider, holds too much sway over the local cable advertising market, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The probe is looking at Comcast's influence in what are called "interconnects," when one pay-TV provider sells cable advertising to local businesses on behalf of other pay-TV operators in the market, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the inquiry hasn't been made public.
About two minutes of commercial time each hour is typically set aside for local ad buyers such as car dealers. Comcast sells ads to local businesses through a division called Comcast Spotlight.
"We plan to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice's inquiry," Comcast said in an emailed statement.
The Justice Department's role is to ensure that companies aren't violating antitrust law by hurting competition. Mark Abueg, a department spokesman, didn't respond to a message seeking comment.
"These interconnects increase efficiency and help keep costs down for advertisers and are responsive to the needs of major local advertisers," Comcast said in the email. "These long-standing industry practices are good for advertisers and consumers," it said. Comcast and other cable providers "are continuing to provide these important services to our clients."