Barriers to Entry and Competitive Behavior: Evidence from Reforms of Cable Franchising Regulations

Between 2005 and 2008, 19 of the 50 states of the U.S. reformed the franchising process for cable television, significantly easing entry into local markets. Using a difference-in-differences approach that exploits the staggered introduction of reforms, we find that prices for “Basic” service declined systematically by about 5.5 to 6.8 percent following the reforms, but we find no statistically significant effect on average price for the more popular “Expanded Basic” service. We also find that the reforms led to increased actual entry in reformed states, by about 11.6% relative to non-reformed states. Our analysis shows that the decline in price for “Basic” service holds for markets that did not experience actual entry, consistent with limit pricing by incumbents. To control for potential state-level shocks correlated with the reforms, we undertake a sample-split test that finds larger declines in prices for both “Basic” and “Expanded Basic” services in local markets which faced a greater threat of entry (because they were close to a prominent second entrant). Our results are consistent with limit pricing models that predict incumbents respond to increased threat of entry, and suggest that the reforms facilitated entry and modestly benefited consumers in reformed states.