Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal faces significant review in DC
Less than an hour after CNBC's David Faber broke the news late Wednesday night that Comcast had reached a $45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable, consumer advocates had already drawn up a list of concerns.
Comcast's deal to acquire Time Warner Cable will undergo a lengthy regulatory review by both the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which okayed the cable giant's plan to acquire NBCUniversal three years ago but hasn't reacted as favorably to horizontal agreements like this between two similar companies.
Comcast has a good track record of getting deals passed by regulators and the company spends a significant amount of time and money making friends in Washington. Even if this deal is approved, it may come with significant conditions that could cause Comcast some heartburn.
Earlier this month both the Justice Department's antitrust chief and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler went out of their way to stomp on SoftBank Corp's idea of buying T-Mobile USA over worries about decreased competition. AT&T executives are still sore over regulators' denial of their $39 billion plan to buy T-Mobile in 2011.
This deal is different since cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner don't compete in the same markets, like AT&T, T-Mobile and other wireless carriers. Comcast has already offered to divest three million customers as part of the deal to keep its overall national market share at under 30 percent to appease regulatory concerns. (There is no national cable market cap anymore because a federal appeals court rejected the FCC's 30 percent limit in 2009 and the agency never tried to set a new limit.)
Even though Comcast is the nation's largest cable provider and Time Warner is the second largest, Comcast officials are arguing that antitrust regulators should look more broadly at the video market and include satellite television, Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse pay-TV service.