The deal is dead. The $45 billion merger between Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) that is. It would have created a national cable company with vast control over television and broadband in the U.S. Regulators are calling it a victory. So is Senator Al Franken, democrat from Minnesota.
But is a new deal in the offing?
Time Warner Cable may have other suitors. Bloomberg reports sources say Charter Communications has reached out to TWC as a possible suitor. “I would have to look at that,” Franken tells Yahoo Finance Editor in Chief Andy Serwer in the video above. “I don’t think Charter buying it is any—even in the same realm as Comcast. Comcast being the largest internet provider, and also the largest cable provider and also vertically integrated with all this content.”
Franken has been vocal about big mergers and in particular the Comcast-TWC deal which was announced in February 2014. At the time, Comcast said the merger between the two would lead to more advanced services for video and faster Internet speeds. But Franken says it would have led to higher prices, fewer choices and worse service.
“I saw that this was going to be just too big a company; it was going to be anti-competitive; it would be going against the public interest,” he says. “I don’t know why it took so long. I thought on its face, it was creating an egregiously large company… that would have too much power in the space,” he says.
How much power? Quite a bit in terms of content and carriage. Comcast owns NBC Universal and all of its content from more than 20 networks like NBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo. In terms of providing cable and Internet access, through the merger, Comcast would have expanded to new markets like New York and Los Angeles. The company would have controlled 57 percent of the nation’s broadband and nearly 30 percent of pay television service.
“This was just, to me, going to be too big a company and people came to their view,” says Franken.
For Franken, it was an uphill battle on Capitol Hill to fight the merger. But earlier this week, Franken and five other liberal democratic senators including Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission asking them to block the deal. “When it was first put out there, a lot of people thought it was a fait accompli,” says Franken. “I didn’t because I just thought that this would collapse of its own weight and it did.”
Beyond concerns about the size of the company, Franken also believed Comcast was being “duplicitous” particularly when it came to the company’s stance on net neutrality. “They were saying they were pro net neutrality but they really weren’t,” he says, “And you saw that when the FCC finally made its ruling going to net neutrality and Comcast kind of went nuts, and even talked about possibly lawsuits.”
Franken also says Comcast violated some of the conditions put on the company by the FCC in terms of NBC Universal's purchase which he says wasn’t a good precedent going into this deal.
Franken saying he would consider the Charter-TWC deal may be a sign that this combination could be approved by Washington.
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