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Wall Street Investment Bankers Start Worrying They Won’t Get Their Fat Fees if Comcast Merger Fails

merger smash

With regulators considering rejecting Comcast’s $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, investment bankers hoping to reap fat fees “advising” Comcast and Time Warner Cable about the deal are starting to panic they won’t get paid.

Although a merger flop won’t hurt giants like JPMorgan Chase, which operates a 24/7 cash vacuum, continuously sucking fees from companies engaged in Mergermania, smaller “boutique” investment banks like Allen & Co., Centerview Partners, and PJT Partners don’t have that luxury.

Reuters reports some of the smaller investment banks involved in the deal are now on edge, worried they won’t get their share of at least $140 million in investment banking advisory fees that would be paid to complete the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger deal.

“Big banks have many deals going on, and they can afford to lose one more, even though it is painful. Smaller firms are less diversified, so for them it’s much more painful,” Campbell Harvey, a professor of international business at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, told Reuters.

But crying towels are also being readied for investment bankers involved in two side deals involving Charter Communications, which are likely to also fall apart in a chain reaction if the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger dies.

dominoesCharter has deals pending with both Comcast and Time Warner Cable to launch GreatLand Connections and have plans to takeover Bright House Networks, both contingent on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger getting approval.

Those two transactions will bring another $170 million in fees to investment bankers, with JPMorgan Chane, former top Morgan Stanley banker Taubman, and Barclays Bank splitting $51-68 million in fees between the three firms.

Time Warner Cable’s own advisers are waiting for $57-75 million in fees as well, among them Morgan Stanley, Allen & Co., Citigroup, and Centerview Partners.

To understand how important the fees are to smaller bankers, Taubman was ranked 23rd in mergers & acquisitions fees in 2014. Without the Comcast deal, Taubman drops out of the top-100.

Some bankers may have negotiated a token fee to be paid by Comcast and Time Warner Cable if the deal falls apart. Most estimates suggest usual fees amount to around 10-15 percent of the amount they would collect if a merger is successfully completed.

It’s Official: Charter Communications Buys Bright House Networks in $10.4 Billion Deal

Charter_logoCharter Communications today officially announced it will acquire control of Bright House Networks in a $10.4 billion deal the two companies are calling a “partnership.”

Widely anticipated, the deal will help Charter in its quest to become the second largest cable operator in the country, up from fourth place.

Bright House is the sixth largest cable operator, serving almost two million video customers in central Florida including Orlando and Tampa Bay, as well as Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, and California.

The deal will establish a partnership between Charter and Bright House’s current owner, Advance/Newhouse. But nobody will doubt who is in charge. Charter will own 73.7% of the venture, leaving the Newhouse family with a minority share of 26.3%. Bright House shareholders will receive shares of New Charter stock.

brighthouse1The deal is partly contingent on Time Warner Cable, which has a right to acquire Bright House for itself as part of a long-standing partnership between the two cable companies on programming and technology matters. But such an acquisition now seems remote, considering Time Warner Cable remains tied up in its year-long effort to be acquired by Comcast. An even larger Time Warner Cable would further complicate that transaction in Washington, where regulators are clearly concerned about supersizing Comcast. Since some regulators count Bright House customers as de facto Time Warner Cable customers, having Bright House acquired by Charter would seem to reduce Comcast’s influence over American broadband and cable television by cutting its combined market share from 29 to 27 million subscribers.

The Charter Sucks website could soon be getting more traffic.

The Charter Sucks website could soon be getting more traffic.

But Charter is also dependent on the Comcast deal closing, because that transaction delivers Charter another 2.5 million Time Warner and Comcast castoffs that will be sold service under the brand GreatLand Connections. The combination of those subscribers and Bright House will make Charter the second largest cable operator in the country.

Unfortunately for customers, Charter isn’t even close to second place in customer satisfaction or service. Beyond the very active Charter Sucks website, every consumer satisfaction measurement firm places Charter substantially below average in service, satisfaction, and pricing. Bright House scored on the high side.

“From the frying pan into the fire,” lamented Sam Pama, a former Bright House customer turned FiOS fan in Tampa. “First Frontier bought Verizon FiOS in Florida and now Charter is buying Bright House. Both treat their customers like crap.”

One piece of good news: Charter quietly shelved their usage caps months ago and Frontier has only toyed with them in the past, taking significant heat from Stop the Cap! before backing off. Neither are expected to slap usage limits or usage billing on customers in the foreseeable future.

Charter Cable in Talks to Acquire Bright House Networks in an All-Stock Deal; Deal May Still Fall Apart, Source Says

charterCharter Communications is in talks with Si Newhouse, Jr., the billionaire owner of Bright House Networks, to acquire the cable operator in an all-stock deal that could be worth over $12 billion, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

Bright House Networks serves 2.5 million customers, primarily in central Florida but also in parts of Alabama, Indiana, California and Michigan. Bright House has been closely controlled by the Newhouse family and has avoided efforts to consolidate the cable industry for more than two decades.

The deal is not yet finalized, according to two people asking not to be identified discussing confidential details of the deal. A side dispute over who will control voting shares of Charter after any acquisition remains at issue. John Malone’s Liberty Broadband, the largest single shareholder of Charter, is said to be seeking a larger ownership share of Charter Communications in what analysts expect will be a gradual takeover of Charter by Malone.

This afternoon, Bright House confirmed acquisition talks are underway.

brighthouse1“While we have had conversations with many parties about this transaction, we do not have an agreement with anyone regarding future plans for Bright House,” a company spokeswoman said in the statement.

The deal may also depend on whether regulators approve the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Time Warner Cable currently represents Bright House in most cable programming negotiations and the two cable companies have closely worked together on technology and services for more than a decade. That collaboration is likely to end if the Comcast merger is approved, stranding New House as a small independent operator.

Charter was long-expected to make offers to acquire other cable operators in its quest to grow larger, especially after failing in its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable for itself. An acquisition of Bright House by Charter would allow the company to further expand its presence in the south and midwest where it focuses most of its cable operations.

But it is not a done deal yet. The talks between Charter and Bright House could still fall apart and may not result in a deal, one source cautioned.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Charter in Talks to Buy Newhouse Bright House Networks 3-12-15.flv

Bloomberg News reports Charter Communications is in talks with the Newhouse family to acquire Bright House Networks in an all-stock deal. (1:22)

Bright House Networks Adding Pricey 300/15Mbps Broadband Tier: $199.95/Mo or $95+ in Bundle

Phillip Dampier March 11, 2015 Bright House, Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

brighthouse1Speed costs.

At least in central Florida where Bright House Networks provides cable service.

The company’s entire Florida service area will be able to sign up for 300/15Mbps broadband beginning later this month. The cost ranges from $95 a month for customers with a deluxe bundle of services all the way up to $199.95 a month for Internet-only customers.

“We continually look for ways to provide the best available choices to our customers. Just a few months ago, we increased our maximum bandwidth offering to 150Mbps, and now we are making available an additional product at 300Mbps,” said Kevin Hyman, executive vice president, Cable Operations, Bright House Networks. “We’ve opted to make this product available to our entire Florida footprint meaning millions of Floridians will have this choice available to them.”

Bright House will support the speeds on its existing DOCSIS 3 network, which means some customers with older modems and slower speeds may need new equipment to take full advantage of the speed tier. Upload speeds drag behind download speeds because of existing network architecture, although other cable companies are managing to offer higher upload speeds than Bright House. When DOCSIS 3.1 arrives, expect upstream speeds to get a boost.

Verizon reminds us its customers can already get faster upload speeds (300/300Mbps) for around the same price Bright House charges for broadband-only service.

The newest tier joins Bright House’s other tiers, which were upgraded late last year:

bright house tiers

Cloudy Days for Bright House Networks Ahead? Comcast-Time Warner Merger Complicates Volume Discounts

(Original image: Musée McCord Museum - Re-envisioned by Stop the Cap!)

(Original image: Musée McCord Museum) — (Re-envisioned by Stop the Cap!)

Bright House Networks customers could face much higher cable television bills and a decline in technology upgrades thanks to a merger deal between two companies that should theoretically have no impact on them.

Bright House Networks has been an odd duck among cable companies since it was created from cobbled-together systems originally owned by Vision Cable, Cable Vision, TelePrompTer, Group W, Paragon and others. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Time Warner effectively ran the cable systems still owned by the Newhouse family. After the AOL-Time Warner merger, Advance/Newhouse decided to take back control of the management and operations of its cable systems, relaunching them under the Bright House Networks brand.

While the Newhouse family continues to assert its ownership and control of Bright House, it is highly dependent on Time Warner Cable to handle cable programming negotiations and broadband technology. That is why Bright House customers were sold “Road Runner” broadband service for many years – a brand familiar to any Time Warner customer. To this day, programming blackouts that affect Time Warner cable TV viewers usually also impact those subscribing to Bright House. Time Warner Cable also retains a minority ownership interest in Bright House.

Although the company is well-known in Indianapolis, Birmingham, suburban Detroit and Bakersfield, its presence is most recognized in central Florida, where it serves customers in Orlando, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Tampa Bay, and many points in-between.

Despite the fact Bright House serves more than two million customers and is the sixth largest cable company in the country, it is small potatoes to major programmers like Comcast-NBCUniversal, Viacom, Disney, and others. All the best discounts go to satellite television providers and giant cable operators like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Smaller operators pay substantially more.

That is where the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable comes in.

brighthouse1The federal government is likely to count Bright House’s 2.2 million customers as part of the Time Warner Cable family, at least as far as control of cable programming pricing is concerned. Despite Comcast’s voluntary commitment to keep its national share of the cable TV business under 30 percent with the merger of Time Warner, Comcast hasn’t taken seriously counting  the customers of the uninvited cousin – Bright House.

Logistically and legally, Comcast would assume control of Time Warner Cable’s interest in Bright House if the merger is approved by state and federal regulators. That may be too much for regulators to swallow.

Because Bright House is insignificant to Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s marriage plans, Comcast could end up terminating the arrangement, which even Bright House acknowledged would put it “at risk of losing the material benefits such agreements provide, include possibly raising costs for its customers and hampering its ability to compete effectively—a result that would certainly not be in the public interest.”

The Newhouse family has evidently seen the writing on the wall, hiring Wall Street investment bank UBS to advise whether it makes sense to sell. If Bright House does decide to hang out a “for sale” sign, Time Warner Cable has the right to bid first. But by that time, if things go according to plan, it might be Comcast ultimately swallowing up yet another large cable system.

Bright House, Time Warner Cable, and Mediacom Customers Get Expanded TV Everywhere

NBC_Universal.svgThree cable operators have announced additions to their TV Everywhere services that let cable television subscribers stream certain cable networks from home computers and portable wireless devices.

Time Warner and Bright House are inching towards making their apps more useful with new deals that will allow viewing outside of the home. Unsurprisingly, Time Warner has managed to sign a deal with their potential new owner — Comcast/NBCUniversal —  that includes anywhere-viewing of live and on demand content from NBCUniversal’s suite of cable networks including USA Network, Syfy, Telemundo, Bravo, Oxygen, CNBC, MSNBC, mun2, NBC Sports Network, and Golf Channel, as well as local NBC and Telemundo-owned broadcast stations.

Since Time Warner Cable handles cable programming negotiations for Bright House Networks, both customers will receive the enhanced service.

Within the next few days, customers will have access to the NBC Sports Live Extra and Golf Live Extra services via apps on iOS and Android devices, as well as online. Access to the remaining broadcast and cable networks will become available to Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers starting in September, and continuing on an ongoing basis. Customers must verify their subscription to begin watching.

nfl channelUnfortunately, there are only a handful of NBC-owned and operated broadcast stations across both companies’ service areas. In most cases, local affiliate stations are owned and operated by other corporate entities and will not be included in this deal.

Mediacom Communications has expanded its own TV Everywhere package, adding NFL Network and NFL RedZone this week, along with mobile access to FX, FXX, FX Movies, National Geographic and National Geographic Wild.

Mediacom now offers 40 channels for out-of-home viewing and plans to add FOX Sports Go and other popular sports networks by September.

TV Everywhere allows Mediacom customers to always be connected to live entertainment and information,” said Mediacom senior vice president Ed Pardini. “Adding new channels to this service extends the value of a video subscription by giving customers more options to view their favorite programs when and where they want, whether that’s the big screen in living rooms or with the convenience of a mobile device.”

Mediacom customers looking for NFL Network and NFL RedZone on smartphones and tablets must download the free NFL Mobile App by going to the web site. Mediacom is now listed as a participating provider. Customers should log in with their Mediacom email address and username.

Bright House Introduces “Echo”; Extended Range for Your In-Home Wi-Fi Using MoCA Technology

bright house echo

Bright House Networks is leveraging their partnership with the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) to bring an end to Wi-Fi dead spots with the introduction of Echo, a scalable in-home Wi-Fi network.

Echo expands the coverage of a traditional in-home wireless router by adding wireless access points in areas where Wi-Fi reception is poor. All a customer needs is a nearby Bright House cable connection. The new service isn’t a traditional wireless repeater. Echo relies on a wired connection between the access point and your cable modem/router using Bright House’s existing coaxial cable inside your home.  The result is faster, more reliable Wi-Fi.

Moca-connected-home2“This is an Advanced Wireless Gateway, a next generation, dual-band modem/router that delivers more range and signal strength,” says Bright House. “From there, Echo Access Points can be used anywhere there is a cable outlet. An access point is a small device that works in conjunction with the modem to extend the home network. Connecting an access point extends the wired network because each access point has two Ethernet ports. Echo turns your existing coaxial cable network into a robust Ethernet network which means that if you have Lightning 90, you should receive speeds up to 90Mbps from the modem and each access point. Connecting an access point also extends the wireless network because each access point is its own Wi-Fi hotspot.”

MoCA is a compelling technology for customers who do not want multiple cable runs installed in their home or business. Originally designed primarily to transport video from “whole house” master DVR’s to remote set-top boxes and other devices, the technology is evolving into an a comprehensive in-home wired coax network capable of moving high-speed data, video, audio, and other traffic concurrently. Everything moves across the same cable TV wiring already in many homes.

Cable, telephone and satellite companies are contemplating introducing a number of MoCA-enabled features, some similar to Bright House’s Echo. Every cable outlet can potentially be a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as the source for IPTV services like Roku, Apple TV, or even cable television without the need of a traditional set-top box.

Bright House will initially market Echo to less technically proficient customers uncomfortable configuring wireless repeaters or remote access points.

Early reports indicate Bright House will charge a $29.95 mandatory trip charge to install and configure the service. Return visits to add extra access points run $29.95 per visit. Echo’s monthly cost starts at $10 — $6 for the service and $4 for the equipment. There is an extra charge of $3 a month for each access point.

The service was expected to launch this week, starting in Florida.

Central Florida Customers Abandoning Bright House Over Expensive Digital Conversion

Phillip Dampier April 30, 2014 Bright House, Consumer News 1 Comment

angry guyAngry customers were seen turning in their cable equipment this week as Bright House Networks switched off its analog and unencrypted signals in central Florida as part of a digital upgrade.

Customers had until Tuesday to pick up a set-top box for every cable-connected television in the home. Bright House is supplying up to two boxes for free until the end of this year after which basic adapter boxes are expected to cost customers $2 a month each.

“They’ve come up with a new scheme to sell us another piece of equipment we don’t necessarily need,” Bright House customer Chris Brown complained to WFTV. He canceled his cable service.

So did customer Steve Cartaya.

“I’m canceling my service with Bright House today,” Cartaya said. “Bills go up every month.”

“We’re transferring from an analog signal to a digital signal here in Central Florida,” said Donald Forbes, senior director of corporate communications for Bright House Networks. “In order to get that digital encrypted signal, you’re doing to need that digital adapter.”

“I say this is the biggest bunch of garbage that has ever been bestowed on the public in this county,” said Kenneth Harter. “Because I have $1,000 worth of TVs at home with built-in features, they have intentionally designed this system so I can’t use it, to where at the end of 12 months they can collect revenue on this equipment.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WFTV Orlando Bright House customers without boxes losing signals 4-30-14.flv

WFTV in Orlando talked with some Bright House customers arriving with equipment in hand to cancel their cable service over a digital conversion that will encrypt every cable channel. (1:28)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WKMG Orlando Bright House Customer Digital Conversion 4-28-14.flv

WKMG in Orlando explains more about the digital adapters being distributed to Bright House customers and those unhappy they are now forced to use them. (3:30)

 

Bright House Networks to Build Limited 1Gbps Fiber to the Home Network in Tampa

ultrafiDespite the fact cable companies routinely claim customers don’t want or need gigabit broadband speeds, property developers seeking an edge in the real estate market do.

A planned community of 6,000 homes under construction by Metro Development Group (MDG) in Tampa has signed a deal to commit Bright House Networks to install a 1Gbps fiber-to-the-home network within the development. MDG said the first homes wired for the new service will be ready for residents this summer, but the entire project will take three years to finish.

“MDG hopes the fast Internet speeds will attract would-be buyers for the new homes,” said MDG president Greg Singleton.

brighthouse_logoMDG is branding the fiber service as ULTRAFi. It will be accompanied by a gigabit Wi-Fi network accessible throughout the community. In addition to providing fast broadband, the service will include home automation and security services.

The driver for the gigabit broadband project isn’t Bright House Networks, it is the property developer. Even though Bright House has committed to the project, it still denies consumers need super fast Internet speeds offered by providers like Google Fiber.

mdgBright House president Nomi Bergman acknowledged the project is a special deal with MDG and it will be years before average consumers need anything close to gigabit broadband speeds. Bergman said there is insufficient demand to justify upgrading Bright House Networks’ broadband speed offerings to other customers.

MDG obviously disagrees, because it hopes to extend fiber-to-the-home gigabit service to its other new communities. That could mean 20,000 more homes could eventually get gigabit broadband.

“In five or 10 years, I think communities that are not doing this” will be “obsolete,” Singleton said.

Outbid, Charter Expected to Eye Consolation Prizes: Cox, Bright House, and/or Suddenlink

brighthouse_logoBright House Networks’ long standing relationship with Time Warner Cable — which negotiated programming deals on behalf of the smaller cable operator with operations in the south — may come to an end with an approval of a merger between Comcast and Time Warner. That could make Bright House a prime candidate for a takeover.

Charter Communications is likely to seek consolation prizes now that Comcast has outbid the smaller cable company for Time Warner Cable. Liberty Media’s John Malone and Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge are meeting with advisers and board members to discuss where Charter will go next to grow its operations.

Malone and Rutledge believe the cable industry must consolidate to better position it against competition from online video, phone companies, and satellite television. Malone would like to see the United States served by just a few cable operators, and feels acquisitions are the best way to accomplish his vision.

suddenlink logoCharter is almost certain to buy at least some of the three million Time Warner Cable customers Comcast intends to cast-off if it wins regulator approval of its buyout deal. But Team Charter has assembled enough financing to go much farther than that.

Among the most likely targets, according to CRT Capital Group and Raymond James Financial are family held Cox Communications, the third largest cable operator in the country with more than four million customers, Bright House Networks, the tenth largest operator with just over two million customers, and Suddenlink Communications and its 1.4 million subscribers.

COX_RES_RGBCox, like Cablevision, has been closely controlled by its founding family for years, so rumors of sales of one or both have never come to fruition. But with the merger announcement of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Wall Street pressure to consolidate is growing by the day. There is talk that if Comcast succeeds in its buyout effort, even satellite providers like DirecTV and DISH are likely to seek a merger. Even Cablevision, which serves suburban New York City may finally feel enough pressure to sell.

A Cox spokesperson this week continued to insist the company is not for sale, but money often has a way of changing minds, if there is enough of it on the table.

Other small regional operators also likely to be approached about selling include: MidContinent, Mediacom, and Cable ONE.

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