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Charter Communications Near Agreement to Acquire Time Warner Cable, Bright House in $60+ Billion Deal

charter twc bhCharter Communications could announce as early as tomorrow its intention to acquire Time Warner Cable for nearly $55.1 billion in cash and stock and Bright House Networks as part of a separate transaction worth north of $10 billion to create the country’s second largest cable operator under the Charter Spectrum brand.

Bloomberg News reports Charter will offer $195 a share — $100 in cash and the rest in Charter stock for Time Warner. The deal will load down Charter in debt. Several Wall Street banks spent more than two weeks assembling a large financing package, but even that would not be enough to seal a deal. Dr. John Malone’s Liberty Broadband, Charter’s largest shareholder, has agreed to inject $5 billion in Charter stock purchases to help fund the deal.

Unlike the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, this one includes a $2 billion deal breakup fee, payable if the merger falls apart. Analysts predict a possible rival bid for Time Warner Cable by Drahi’s Altice SA as well as antitrust concerns.

The deal would quadruple the size of Charter Communications overnight and would represent a massive change for Time Warner Cable customers. Charter uses a simplified pricing approach with fewer choices for Internet and television service, but that could come at a significantly higher price than what Time Warner Cable customers are used to paying. Charter is now advertising “no data caps” which is good news, although how long that lasts is anyone’s guess.

The future of Time Warner Cable’s Maxx upgrade program is in doubt if Charter successfully buys the company. Charter’s proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable in 2014 offered a more modest upgrade plan.

Stop the Cap! will go into more detail about what subscribers can expect as more details become available.

Time Warner Cable’s CEO Reflects on His Efforts to Transform Company’s Image; Gigabit Speed Arrives by 2017

Marcus

Marcus

Even as some of the largest investment banks on Wall Street are assembling a $24 billion loan package to further Charter Communication’s next effort to acquire Time Warner Cable, CEO Robert Marcus has learned not to take his eyes off the day-to-day business of running the country’s second largest cable operator.

Marcus turned up late last week at Le Parker Meridien in New York to speak at the 2nd Annual MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit, largely an affair putting Wall Street investors together with top cable executives to learn about industry trends.

Immediately peppered with questions about the failed merger between Time Warner and Comcast, Marcus sought to turn the page on the deal that would have handed him an $80 million golden parachute.

“The horse is dead,” Marcus said in response to continued questions about the deal.

But Marcus did say he felt the deal was rejected for reasons that were never explained to him or the industry, which could have an impact on future cable mergers and acquisitions. Regulator-inspired uncertainty could make some companies think twice about pursuing the next big deal, but so far that does not seem to apply to Charter Communications — still hot on the trail for a deal with the much larger Time Warner Cable.

twc maxxMarcus claims he understood Time Warner Cable’s image with customers was a real problem that needed to be addressed immediately after becoming the company’s new CEO in  January 2014.

“The residential business was where the work needed to be done,” said Marcus.

Reliability became the top priority for Marcus’ team.

“It trumped features and functionality,” Marcus said, noting that if its network performed as it should, that would result in fewer calls into its customer care centers and reduced “truck rolls” to customer homes, saving Time Warner Cable time and money and improving its image. Marcus claims those efforts paid off.

“It works, we’re not pixelating, and we don’t have [huge] outages,” Marcus said.

Under Marcus’ leadership, Time Warner has adopted a “non-sexy stuff” approach to the cable business, focusing on making sure its existing products work before jumping into new products. That may explain why Time Warner has traditionally been behind other operators introducing vast broadband speed increases, cloud-based set-top boxes with improved user interfaces, more TV Everywhere contract arrangements allowing Time Warner customers to access online video content from third-party cable network websites, and the largest on-demand video libraries.

Not much is likely to change for the time being. Marcus reiterated his plan for major network upgrades under his Time Warner Cable Maxx program remain on track to reach 75% of Time Warner Cable service areas by the end of 2016.

When Maxx upgrades are complete, customers are transitioned to an all-digital television platform and Standard broadband customers move from 15/1Mbps service to 50/5Mbps at no additional charge. Although the top speed for Time Warner Cable broadband is currently 300/20Mbps in Maxx markets like New York, Los Angeles, Austin and Kansas City, Marcus said he was ready to bring 1Gbps broadband to Time Warner Cable customers sometime in late 2016, after DOCSIS 3.1 equipment becomes available.

“As the market evolves to that place, we’ll make it available,” Marcus said.

Recent movement at the Federal Communications Commission to introduce additional oversight over the cable industry has not made much impact at Time Warner Cable, which plans business as usual.

“I live in a different world than Chairman Wheeler in terms of the competitive dynamic,” Marcus said. “We’re fighting it out everyday in the trenches to gain and keep High Speed Data subscribers. The idea we would pull back and not press any competitive advantages of product enhancements we’re capable of delivering, just feels counter-intuitive and bad business.”

The idea that policy changes in Washington would somehow impact the investment in and introduction of new and better services from Time Warner Cable was ridiculous to Marcus.

“I cannot translate that into holding back the product and I can’t imagine what the policy objective would be that would encourage holding back the product,” Marcus said.

Time Warner Cable Maxx Developments in Charlotte, N.C., San Antonio

Phillip Dampier May 14, 2015 Consumer News, Time Warner Cable 1 Comment

twc maxxTime Warner Cable is notifying its customers in Charlotte, N.C. to prepare for the transition to all-digital cable television service which will be complete by the end of this summer. Further south, San Antonio customers can swing by their local cable store and pick up Time Warner Cable’s new terabyte DVR, which can record up to six different programs at the same time and store six times more content than current DVR boxes.

The changes are part of Time Warner Cable’s Maxx upgrade program, which will vastly increase broadband speeds and deliver an all-digital experience to current customers in cities where the upgrade is underway.

“The bad news is you need boxes on all of your televisions,” writes Stop the Cap! reader Susan in Charlotte, who had to pick up three new set-top boxes to keep cable television running in her home. “They are going to move channels in groups to digital-only service over the summer so you will gradually lose your cable television unless you have a box on every set.”

The transition begins in early June and will last into August. Time Warner is offering customers a digital adapter to bring back the digital-only channels on older televisions. Those ordering before Dec. 10 will get them free until Aug. 11, 2016. After that, they will cost $2.75 a month each.

“Weren’t they going to rent these things for $0.99 a month,” asks Susan.

Indeed, when Time Warner Cable unveiled the small devices, they promoted the post-promotional price as $0.99 a month. Earlier this year, the price jumped to $2.75 without explanation. Standard set-top boxes can cost $7 or more a month, but are equipped with an on-screen guide and can access on-demand shows that the digital adapters cannot.

In San Antonio, customers can ditch their old DVR for a major upgrade with more storage space and a better user experience, or so the company claims. Current DVR users should be able to swap out the equipment by bringing in their existing box for an exchange. Be aware all recorded shows will be lost.

Time Warner Cable and Charter Both Talking to Bright House Networks About Acquisition Deal

Phillip Dampier April 30, 2015 Bright House, Charter, Time Warner Cable No Comments

brighthouse1In the last week, executives from both Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable have talked to the Newhouse Family, controlling owner of Bright House Networks, about an acquisition of the cable company.

Time Warner may hold the stronger hand. In addition to being a much-larger and wealthier cable company, Time Warner has the advantage of a long-standing partnership dating back to the early 90’s with Bright House in which Time Warner shares its volume discounts on cable programming and technology with Bright House in return for an annual fee. As part of that arrangement, Time Warner has the right of first offer if Bright House ever chose to sell. If Time Warner matches or beats a competing offer, such as that now on the table from Charter Communications, it wins Bright House for itself.

Bright House decided it had to sell to someone after the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger threatened to end its arrangement with Time Warner. Bright House would pay substantially more for programming and equipment without the volume discounts Time Warner received. With the Comcast deal off the table, Time Warner remains an acquisition target.

Charter_logoBright House is coveted by Charter as a stepping stone to a much larger acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Charter’s balance sheet is loaded with debt and its stock isn’t worth as much as that of Time Warner Cable. Combining Bright House’s two-million subscribers with Charter’s own five million customers strengthens Charter’s balance sheet and increases its borrowing capacity as it prepares to acquire Time Warner Cable for a second time.

Time Warner Cable’s interest in Bright House would make life more difficult for Charter, preventing the company from leveraging a quick deal for Time Warner. It also would make Time Warner Cable considerably more expensive (and complex) to acquire. In January 2014, Charter offered $132.50 a share to Time Warner Cable shareholders to acquire the cable company. Time Warner Cable executives immediately recommended shareholders reject the deal as undervalued. Today Time Warner stock is worth around $156 a share, meaning Charter would have to offer at least $160 a share, and probably more than that, to interest Time Warner executives.

timewarner twcThe Newhouse family is sitting in a lucrative position as it is courted by the two larger cable operators. One of those familiar with the talks suggested Time Warner was offering the Newhouse family influence in a combined Bright House-Time Warner Cable, because its offer would leave the Newhouse family as the largest individual shareholder of the combined company. Charter’s offer would hand power to John Malone’s Liberty Broadband, and leave the Newhouse family with little, if any voice.

Based on that, the Newhouse family may gravitate towards Time Warner Cable unless Charter significantly sweetens its deal and Time Warner drops out. With the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in tatters, both sides have a 30-day “good faith” period to renegotiate and tweak their respective offers.

Despite all that, Bright House may decide not to sell after all, at least until after the bigger players settle their own deals and acquisitions. In that case, Charter may have other targets in mind. At the top of the list are Mediacom and Suddenlink.

Time Warner Cable’s Post-Merger Conference Call: Improved Subscriber Numbers But ‘We’ll Let Others Take the Lead’

road runner

Time Warner Cable held its first post-merger-flop conference call with investors this morning and reported surprisingly good subscriber numbers for the first quarter of 2015.

Despite disappointing investors for not meeting projected profit and revenue numbers for the first three months of the year, Time Warner managed to add 30,000 net video customers for the first time since 2009. High-speed data customers grew by 315,000, compared with 269,000 a year ago, while voice customers increased by 320,000, compared with 107,000 in the prior-year period. The company also reported $26 million in wasted merger-related costs.

8999

Time Warner’s latest triple play promotion has fewer gotchas in the fine print than usual, but the modem fee is still there so buy your own.

A renewed love for Time Warner Cable was not the reason the cable company added customers. Aggressive pricing with fewer fine print “gotchas” and Time Warner Cable Maxx upgrades helped the company pick up new subscribers. Last October, Time Warner added a $90 triple play offer valid across much of its service area, offering unlimited calling phone, Preferred TV, and 30Mbps broadband with one set-top box for $89.99 a month for one year, an offer Artie Minson, chief financial officer of Time Warner Cable called “clean.”

For the last two years, Time Warner Cable executives decided to de-emphasize promotional pricing on phone service, preferring to draw more attention to its double-play television and broadband offers. This year, that thinking is long gone as the cable company re-emphasizes its triple-play packages and offers current customers the chance to add phone service for as little as $10 a month. The strong growth in new phone customers during the quarter reflects the success of those promotions.

Minson was less impressed with the sales of “skinny bundles” of bare basic cable television, HBO, and broadband service, noting it had little impact on Time Warner’s subscriber growth. The allure of its $14.99 everyday low price, low speed Internet offer has also waned.

“There’s a lot of attraction in the press about skinny packages,” echoed Dinesh C. Jain, chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable. “I think a lot of the times, customers don’t want to get bogged down in a lot of choices to make on those kinds of things. There’s a lot of value in our triple-play packaging right now and it’s a simpler sale.”

Marcus used the conference call to re-emphasize the company has not been distracted by 14 months of merger talks with Comcast and has executed on its pre-merger business plan all along.

twc maxx

Coming in 2017 (If We Live That Long)

Network upgrades under the TWC Maxx program are continuing on schedule.

“New York City, LA and Austin are complete, Dallas, San Antonio and Kansas City are underway and Charlotte, Raleigh and Hawaii on the docket for later in the year,” said Marcus. “We also plan to begin the Maxx process in San Diego this year and finish up in early 2016. It’s still early days, but Maxx certainly appears to be making a difference. Customer feedback has been great and churn among Maxx customers with new DOCSIS 3.0 modems is dramatically lower.”

But it will take another two years to complete the entire Time Warner footprint, of which 40-50% will be upgraded by the end of this year.

“The exact pace at which we continue that process in 2016 and 2017 depends on the experience we have in 2015. We’re feeling better about our ability to roll out all-digital this year than we did last year, which was really the first year of the program,” said Marcus. “And we’ll evaluate, as we go into 2016, how quickly we think we can ramp the next batch of systems.”

In a recurring theme throughout the conference call, executives emphasized Time Warner does not want to pioneer tinkering with the traditional cable package.

For example, Marcus acknowledged Cablevision’s experiment with Wi-Fi calling as a cellular replacement strategy, but said Time Warner Cable will take a wait and see approach.

“I’m inclined to watch and see how that evolves and then we’ll see how best to develop our own strategy on that front,” Marcus said.

Marcus

Marcus

“There’s a lot of talk and a lot of work going on out there from other guys,” said Jain, referring to slimmed down cable packages and unbundling. “And if any of their things work, we’ll just be fast followers on that stuff because I think there are some segments of our customer base where that is going to have appeal.”

Marcus also complained there was far too much attention being paid on Millennials as an excuse to break up the traditional cable experience.

“There tends to be, in my opinion, an obsessive interest in Millennials, maybe at the expense of the broader customer base,” Marcus said. “For the vast majority of our customers, the way we currently deliver the video product is pretty darn attractive. That said, sure, there’s a group of customers who might very well like to access video via other means. So it is definitely the case that over time, I can see a world where more and more customers consume our offering without needing to lease a set-top box from us. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon the largest portion of our customers who actually do like the current model.”

On other subjects, the implementation of Net Neutrality under Title II regulations will have no impact on Time Warner’s future plans or investments, according to Marcus.

“We’ve said in the past that our normal business practices comply entirely with the notion of the open Internet, no blocking, no discrimination, no throttling, and transparency are fundamental parts of the way we do business. So to the extent that that’s the full scope of what’s getting incremented under Title II, I think you won’t see a change in the way we do business.”

But he warned if the FCC intends to more broadly regulate Internet access, that could have an impact on pricing and future investment.

Marcus also re-emphasized his intention not to change the way Time Warner sells broadband. That means no compulsory usage caps or usage-based pricing.

“We’re very focused on delivering compelling products to customers at a price that delivers real value,” said Marcus. “We can’t think in terms of taking gross margin dollars that are lost because we lose a video customer and somehow embedding those into high-speed data [with usage pricing] and not seeing an impact on high-speed data.”

Comcast’s David Cohen Survives Night of the Long Knives Blame Game for Comcast Merger Failure

David "I'm crushing your head" Cohen

David “I’m crushing your head” Cohen

Your boss authorized $32 million on lobbying for a $45 billion dollar merger deal that just went down in flames on your watch and you were the guy the company depended on to push it through. What do you do?

If you are Comcast vice president David Cohen, you pray for a press release signed by the CEO reaffirming trust in you.

Cohen can breathe a little easier because Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, did exactly that.

“There is nobody better than David Cohen,” Roberts wrote. “He’s incredible at what he does and we are beyond lucky that he helps passionately lead so many areas at Comcast. He is also a huge supporter of Philadelphia and has done so much for the community. I’m extremely proud to have him on our team.”

It could have been much worse for Cohen, whose contract (and $15 million annual salary) is up at the end of this year. He’s the fourth biggest earner at Comcast, but his stunning arrogance before Congress and the public may have helped nail the coffin shut on a merger worth tens of billions.

Some media outlets have called Cohen myopic, unable to see the building torrent of opposition from consumers, public interest groups, and even regulators.

The NY Post:

“They just lost a big battle. Does the company need a new general to supervise the Washington political strategy?” asked one source.

Comcast is already on the hunt for a new chief financial officer, with Michael Angelakis walking away to begin his own Comcast-backed private-equity fund before the deal imploded.

comcast twcComcast’s claims of “deal benefits” for consumers was perceived to be tissue-thin by legislators like Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), whose district would have seen Time Warner and Charter customers absorbed into the Comcast Dominion.

“[Cohen] was smothering us with attention but he was not answering our questions,” Cárdenas told The New York Times, adding in the early stages of the deal he was open to supporting it if his questions were addressed satisfactorily. “And I could not help but think that this is a $140 billion company with 130 lobbyists — and they are using all of that to the best of their ability to get us to go along.”

Comcast’s swaggering arrogance, condescending editorials, and dismissive attitude towards consumers questioning the deal rubbed a lot of lawmakers the wrong way.

Not only did Comcast offend lawmakers, but their all-important staffers as well. Staffers told the newspaper they felt Comcast was so convinced in the early stages that the deal would be approved that it was dismissing concerns about the transaction, or simply taking the conversation in a different direction when asked about them.

Elected officials associating themselves with Comcast, whose customer service on a good day is considered miserable, was also considered political poison. Few lawmakers were willing to publicly support foisting Comcast on their constituents. Local lawmakers in Time Warner Cable service areas who had no direct experience with Comcast customer service’s special touch of hell often did offer support, especially when a handsome check was sent weeks earlier. But voters with relatives or friends who loathed Comcast (practically everyone in America) were never fooled.

hurricane comcast“They talked a lot about the benefits, and how much they were going to invest in Time Warner Cable and improve the service it provided,” said one senior Senate staff aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “But every time you talked about industry consolidation and the incentive they would have to leverage their market power to hurt competition, they gave us unsatisfactory answers.”

Politicians asked to publicly support the deal characterized their sentiment as “leery” in polite company.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was unwilling to victimize her constituents by replacing two bad cable companies – Time Warner Cable and Charter with one horrible alternative – Comcast.

“No amount of public-interest commitments to diversity would remedy the consumer harm a merged Comcast-Time Warner would have caused to millions of Americans across the country,” Ms. Waters said.

Other lawmakers who already understood Comcast as the Hurricane Katrina of cable companies got into storm shelters early.

“There are limits as to how effective even the best advocate can be with a losing case,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who was critical of the deal from the start, “as this merger would have further enhanced this company’s incentive, its means and its history of abuse of market power.”

Comcast even cynically attempted to color and race match lobbyists with legislators, believing the shared ethnic heritage would be an added incentive.

The New York Times:

Comcast, for example, assigned Juan Otero, a former Department of Homeland Security official who serves on the board of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and now works as a Comcast lobbyist, to be the point person to work with Mr. Cárdenas.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Stewart, an African-American lobbyist on the Congressional Black Caucus Institute board, was assigned to work with Marc Veasey, Democrat of Texas, who is also black. She personally appealed to Mr. Veasey’s staff, urging that he not sign a letter last August questioning the deal, according to an email obtained by The New York Times, citing the company’s work on behalf of the minority community. (Mr. Veasey still signed a related letter.)

Comcast also asked Jordan Goldstein, a former official at the Federal Communications Commission who is now a Comcast regulatory affairs executive, to work with Mr. Blumenthal’s office. Mr. Goldstein had previously developed a working relationship with Joel Kelsey, a legislative assistant in charge of reviewing the matter for the senator, who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Disappearing Promotion/Retention Deals from Time Warner Cable; Watch Your Cable Bill

shellYou negotiated for a better rate from Time Warner Cable and thought you were all set for another year or two, only to discover the promotion ended early or never got applied at all.

You are not alone.

We did some negotiating of our own back in February and thought we managed an agreement to cut our bill from $175 to $112 — a savings of $63 a month. Instead, the first bill under the new rate was $150.

timewarner twc“You’d be surprised how many people never bother to pursue reneged on promotions like this,” said Sam Tremblay, a telecommunications bill analyst for a major regional supermarket chain.

Tremblay analyzes his employer’s telephone, broadband, and wireless bills that total close to $100,000 a month. He says he saved his employer over $50,000 in 2014 finding billing errors and getting companies to deliver on the rate promises made by salespeople.

“What a salesperson or customer service representative promises and what is actually compatible with their billing system are often two different things,” Tremblay tells us. “You are most at risk of billing errors when making changes to your account, especially if those changes involve a billing credit or special discount.”

Did you get what you were promised? (Image: Bruce Kushnick)

Did you get what you were promised? (Image: Bruce Kushnick)

He explains that many billing systems are not tied directly to call center employees offering promotions or, in our case, customer retention offers. If an employee attempts to apply a promotion the customer was not entitled to receive, or one that had expired by the time it was processed by the billing system, it is typically rejected.

The latter is what happened to us, despite initially seeing the promotion applied.

Time Warner Cable often generates a temporary “virtual” mid-cycle bill available for review online when significant changes are made to your account. We were able to see the promotion correctly applied to this temporary “bill” but it was gone by the time the official bill was mailed. By the time we noticed it, a second inaccurate bill was ready to be processed.

Other customers have found their promotions canceled or unfulfilled, especially when the offer involved a high value gift card, tablet, or other electronics. As we reported earlier, fighting for a rebate card or tablet is often a waste of time. It is typically better to request a bill credit equal to the value of the gift card or promotional item because Time Warner relies on a third-party to fulfill those offers and getting an exception made to a rebate/offer rejection is extremely time-consuming and often fruitless. Use the savings from a substantial bill credit to buy your own tablet.

“A lot of customers just don’t bother to pursue things like this, believing they were bait and switched by customer service, have no recourse, and chalk it up as another reason to hate the cable company,” said Tremblay.

Not us. We pursued the mysterious disappearing promotion with Time Warner’s social media team who forwarded the complaint to the nearest regional office and we received a call early this morning with an apology.

It turned out Tremblay had figured out the problem before Time Warner Cable.

The retention promotion we were offered on Feb. 27 expired Feb. 28 — a Saturday. By the time the account changes were processed by Time Warner’s billing system the following Monday, the promised promotion could no longer be applied, hence a $150 bill instead of $112.

To resurrect the promised promotion, the Time Warner representative placed us on the next best valid promotion — $130 a month, and before we could complain about the $18 difference, also offered a $275 credit making up for overpayments already made and ensuring the two offers are financially equal.

Tremblay said such errors are usually unintentional, especially when there is lag time between the first customer contact and the date a company’s systems are updated with the changes.

“If a company’s call center or customer-facing system is not directly tied with the billing system, it is easy to apply a credit or promotion the customer isn’t entitled to receive based on the rules programmed into the billing system,” Tremblay said. “Once the change is received by the billing system, it rejects it.”

He added the mistake Time Warner Cable made was not following up after the promotion was rejected, correcting it before an unexpected higher bill was generated.

“A customer should not have to call a second time to get a provider to live up to its original commitment, but it happens all the time,”  he said. “In my experience, 80% of billing errors are in their favor, 20% in ours.”

What Washington Didn’t Like About the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg What Washington Didnt Like About the Comcast-TWC Deal 4-23-15.flv

What Washington Didn’t Like About the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal: Comcast is planning to walk away from its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable, people with knowledge of the matter said, after regulators decided that the deal wouldn’t help consumers, making approval unlikely. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook, Scarlet Fu, Alex Sherman and Cory Johnson have more on “Street Smart.” (6:18)

FCC Staff Recommends Sending Comcast/TWC Merger to Seventh Level of ‘Deal-Killing’ Hearing Hell

fat+lady+sings-featureThe staff at the Federal Communications Commission decided Wednesday to make a non-decision decision regarding the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and are recommending turning over the matter, including millions of pages of company documents and 14 months of investigative findings to an administrative law judge to sort out.

The procedural move, dubbed by many regulatory experts as a “deal-killer,” is known officially as a “hearing designation order.” But executives at Comcast know it really means the FCC is sending a strong signal it does not believe the merger is in the public interest.

The sudden recommendation by the FCC is seen by some observers as a coordinated move with the U.S. Department of Justice to let Comcast CEO Brian Roberts know the deal is in serious peril. In 2011, the Justice Department declared its opposition to another blockbuster merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, and the FCC announced its own opposition just a few hours later. The merger was declared dead shortly thereafter.

Placing the matter in the hands of an administrative law judge would mean a drawn-out, complicated hearing that would probably last longer than the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson. Few companies bother. Even if Comcast decides it will fight, if the Justice Department successfully challenges the merger in court, the hearing designation order is moot and the merger fails.

Most observers expect Comcast will call off the merger before dragging the matter out in a court or hearing room.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story last night, calling it a “significant roadblock.”

Wall Street analysts were more direct.

“The fundamental problem with this transaction is there is no major constituency outside of Comcast and Time Warner Cable that want it to move forward,” said Rich Greenfield, analyst at BTIG Research, which has been predicting the deal falls apart. Mr. Greenfield noted that it would be a “very uphill battle” for Comcast to prove its case through the FCC’s hearing process that its merger is in the public interest. “Is it really worth spending more time and resources to fight the government?”

elephant“I’d never say anything was 100 percent dead, but this is in the 99 percent category,” Greenfield added. “It’s not every day that you have a transaction that is universally hated by everyone outside of Philadelphia,” where Comcast is based.

“No, the Comcast deal isn’t dead yet,” said telecom analyst Craig Moffett on Thursday. “But it’s a bit like an elephant that has been dropped out of an airplane. At around 10,000 feet, it is technically still alive. But it is falling fast, there’s not much you can do to stop it, and its odds of survival are pretty low when it hits the ground. Engaging in a war of attrition with the U.S. government is generally a bad idea and one rarely undertaken.”

The usually brash and confident Comcast was uncharacteristically muted in their response to the latest DOJ and FCC developments.

“As with all of our DOJ discussions in the past and going forward, we do not believe it is appropriate to share the content of those meetings publicly, and we, therefore, have no comment,” said a Comcast spokeswoman.

The apparent looming defeat of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would be a testament to unified opposition from consumers, programmers, competitors, and emerging online video distributors that might one day fully challenge traditional cable television.

“In a democracy like this, you have gather your forces to say no to politically powerful people,” Mark Cooper, a Comcast opponent and research director at the Consumer Federation of America, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNN Death sentence for Comcast merger 4-23-15.mp4

A death sentence for the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger? Analysts think so. CNN reports on the history of a merger deal that used to be “inevitable.” (1:42)

Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Setback

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Comcast-TWC merger setback 4-23-15.flv

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the FCC is issuing a “hearing designation order” for the Time Warner Cable-Comcast proposal, with Henry Blodget, Business Insider. (2:10)

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