Mergers and Acquisitions Explained

Comcast seeks advice on possible Time Warner Cable bid: Sources

Comcast preferred partner in potential TWC deal
Comcast preferred partner in potential TWC deal

Time Warner Cable's flirtation with potential merger suitors may include Comcast, which is seeking advice on possible regulatory hurdles if it should pursue a bid, sources close to the situation told CNBC on Friday.

Comcast Center in Philadelphia
Bradley C. Bower | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Comcast, the parent company of CNBC and NBC, is not in active discussions on deal terms with Time Warner Cable, these sources say, but is asking for guidance on antitrust and telecommunications-related issues. According to people familiar with the matter, TWC has made it clear that if it should sell itself, Comcast would be its preferred buyer.

These people add that Comcast has been quietly mulling a deal with TWC for some time, although Time Warner was the first to indicate interest to Comcast. "It's not as if Comcast is trying to [aggressively] go after Time Warner Cable," said one source with knowledge of the situation.

Time Warner Cable is on the verge of a bid from Charter Communications, according to The Wall Street Journal, which said Charter is near an agreement with banks for the funds to make that offer. Analysts, however, say Time Warner's needs may be better suited with Comcast.

(Read more: Charter nears funding for Time Warner Cable bid: WSJ)

Comcast seeks advice on potential TWC deal: Sources
Comcast seeks advice on potential TWC deal: Sources

"The synergies are very real, and Comcast would be a better fit," said Craig Moffett, founder and senior analyst at MoffettNathanson. He said that while the Justice Department's antitrust requirements may not pose an insurmountable challenge, "the harder challenge would be the FCC."

"The FCC applies a public interest test that would be much more subjective" than the DoJ, and would raise tough questions about market concentration and diversity of cable offerings, he said. "It wouldn't be a slam dunk by any means."

Spokesmen for Comcast and Time Warner Cable declined to comment.

Other analysts say a potential acquisition of TWC could create headaches for streaming media companies like Netflix, which has been eager to seek a deal with Comcast and other pay television companies to offer Netfix content via their hardware.

Jim Boyle, managing director of SQAD, an independent media cost forecasting firm, said a Comcast-TWC combination could give Comcast leverage to exact stiff terms should Netfix come calling for a content deal.

"Most people think of Netflix as a content provider, but they can get squeezed in the other direction" by traditional media companies, Boyle said. "They don't own their distribution system, people like Comcast do."

—Reporting by CNBC's David Faber; writing by Javier E. David.