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Charter-Time Warner deal would get tough regulatory scrutiny

Matt Hamblen | May 28, 2015
Companies defend US$55 billion deal as good for consumers and innovation

A coverage map provided by the companies seems to indicate little overlap, with Time Warner heavily concentrated in areas east of Ohio and in parts of Texas and California. Charter, meanwhile, has a broad swath of coverage from the Northwest to the Southeast states.

The map also indicates a dense concentration of coverage by Bright House Networks in Florida and Alabama. Charter is also buying Bright House for $10.4 billion.

Tuesday's proposed acquisition underlines the longstanding move by cable TV operators to find ways to support fast Internet services that include video programming from companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Having greater financial scale with a bigger geographical footprint will drive more product development and innovation, TWC and Charter said.

The new Charter would also provide fast Internet to business users in areas where businesses aren't well served today, Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge said in the conference call. Rutledge would head the new company as CEO and chairman. The new company's board would have 13 directors, including the chairman.

Shareholders of both Charter and TWC must approve the deal, as well as federal regulators.

The new Charter would have nearly 24 million customers in 41 states, of which 19 million would be wired Internet customers and 17 million would be cable TV customers. Comcast will still remain the largest cable TV and Internet provider with about 27 million cable TV and Internet customers. TWC and Charter are the second and third largest.

Even with the cautionary statement from FCC's Wheeler, analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates predicted the Charter-TWC deal has a "pretty good chance of going through." He noted that Comcast would still have the most Internet customers, at about 22 million in all.

"Still, it is possible that the FCC and DOJ will play hardball and say no," Gold added.


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