Ever since The Comcast/Time Warner cable was announced, the merger has been met with delays with the FCC and bad PR stories involving NBC News and Comcast customer support. Then a mega coalition of TV networks, websites and competing cable networks formed to do whatever they could to block the merger. It appears to be working.
The United States government – via anonymous sources – will announce a recommendation to block the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merge. Via Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concern that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week, said the people. The division’s senior officials will then decide whether to file a federal lawsuit seeking to block the tie-up.
Many will view the pending announcement with hope and glee that the merger will dissolved but the Wall Street Journal is reporting that both companies will meet with regulators to discuss concessions to keep the merger going:
The meeting is the first time regulators and representatives from the cable companies have sat down together to try and negotiate a deal to approve the merger. The two companies, according to the Journal‘s sources, will work to find concessions in an attempt to allay regulators’ fears that the merged companies will wield too much power.
At this point, the merger could go either way: successful or failed.
In 2011 the DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T/T-Mobile merger. AT&T chose not to fight the lawsuit. T-Mobile was awarded additional spectrum and millions of dollars from the failed merger and is now the 3rd most popular wireless network in the country.
The DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit last year to block the US Airways/American Airlines merger. The airline chose to fight the lawsuit and won – with a settlement. In order to merge, American had to give up slots at Washington Ronald Regan National, New York LaGuardia, Boston Logan, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International, Miami and Chicago O’Hare International Airports to low-fare airlines like Virgin America, Southwest, JetBlue and Spirit.
I’m guess what the US government will tell Comcast is that the company needs to give up more in order for the merger to get the blessing they need to continue. One might suggest that Comcast give up more cities they currently manage to competitors. Example: According to Comcast’s available map, the cable giant only covers 7% of the state of Georgia. One of the cities Comcast currently covers: Atlanta, the most populous metropolitan area in the state.
If Comcast doesn’t want to give up customers, they might want to give up cable channels they own. Those include:
- CNBC World
- Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
- Comcast SportsNet California
- Comcast SportsNet Chicago
- Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
- Comcast SportsNet New England
- Comcast SportsNet Northwest
- Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
- Golf Channel
- NBC Sports Network
- 10 NBC stations (WNBC – New York; KNBC – Los Angeles, KNSD – San Diego; KNTV – San Francisco; KXAS – Dallas/Ft. Worth; WMAQ – Chicago; WTVJ – Miami; WRC – Washington; WCAU – Philadelphia; WVIT – Hartford)
- New England Cable News
- Telemundo (including 16 Telemundo stations)
- USA Network
- Universal HD
- Universal Sports
- The Weather Channel
This doesn’t include Universal Studios, Comcast Spectacor – which owns several sports venues and teams like the NHL team Philadelphia Flyers, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia as well as several ticket outlets including Fandango, New Era Tickets and movies.com.
The message here is they own a lot of properties and the United States government knows this as well. In order for the merger to continue, Comcast will have to give up a lot in order for the company to buy Time Warner Cable. The merger – in it’s current form – with Time Warner Cable would create a company that might be bigger than AT&T when that company was broken up in 1982.
The Time Warner Cable merger with Comcast is not dead yet. It’s on life support with a faint pulse with the plug is half out of the socket. One tug and it’s dead.