Cable industry sharks are circling Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable TV company in the United States, which has become the subject of intense speculation that it might be purchased by one of its rivals. The latest scuttlebutt suggests that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, might pursue a joint bid for Time Warner Cable with Charter Communications, with plans to break it up. That news follows reports that Comcast is exploring the regulatory hurdles associated with buying Time Warner Cable outright, which sent the company’s shares soaring by 10% on Friday.
Such a merger would be intensely scrutinized by the U.S. government, including the Justice Dept., which would address antitrust concerns, and the Federal Communications Commission, which would be charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Combining the number one and number two cable companies in the country would create a corporate behemoth with approximately 33 million customers. Comcast already owns NBCUniversal, one of the crown jewels of the media industry, after buying the company from industrial conglomerate General Electric in a highly controversial deal.
“We expect a Comcast-TWC deal would draw intense antitrust/regulatory scrutiny and likely resistance, stoked by raw political pushback from cable critics and possibly rivals who would argue it’s simply a ‘bridge (deal) too far’ or ‘unthinkable,’” Stifel telecom analysts Christopher C. King and David Kaut wrote in a recent note to clients. “We believe government approval would be possible, but it would be costly, with serious risk. This would be a brawl.”
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