Charter Communications completed its takeover of larger rival Time Warner Cable (and also regional operator Brighthouse Networks) in 2016, to create the second largest US broadband and cable operator after Comcast. The combined Charter/TWC service relaunched under the Spectrum brand, and now serves more than 31m residential and business customers across 41 US states, with standard cable, on-demand, broadband and both fixed line and mobile telephone services. The heaviest penetration is in the Eastern US. A total of 28m customers take broadband from Carter, and 16m cable video. Spectrum Mobile, launched in 2018, is powered by Verizon on an MVNO basis in areas where the company doesn't have its own mobile infrastructure. Numbers are still small - just 2.4m in 2020. In addition to third-party cable channels, Spectrum operates a small collection of its own streams including regional sports channel Spectrum SportsNet. Among other rights, it shows all games of the LA Lakers and LA Dodgers sports teams. Thomas Rutledge is chairman & CEO, but the company's biggest shareholders are media tycoons John Malone, via his Liberty Broadband vehicle (with 21%), and the Newhouse family, owners of Advance and Conde Nast (with almost 12%). The deal more than quadrupled the size by customers of the original Charter business, and revenues rose from under $10bn in 2015 to $48.1bn for 2020, with net income of $4.2bn. The Charter cable business was created in Missouri in 1993, and was subsequently acquired by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. However, huge debts generated by expansion left the company struggling and it eventually filed for bankrupcy in 2009. It was rescued by private equity investors, and John Malone became its biggest shareholder in 2013. In 2014, Charter attempted to engineer a merger with Time Warner Cable, but its offer was topped by one from larger rival Comcast. That combination was blocked by regulators on competition grounds, allowing Charter to snap up the orphaned TWC on the rebound.
Capsule checked 16th April 2021
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Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Apr 2018: Ads of the Week: "Monsters: BBQ". New York creative boutique Something Different has stumbled upon comedy gold with its continuing "Monsters" campaign for US cable service Spectrum, the merger of what were previously Charter and Time Warner Cable. We've featured these ads before, in which a group of Hollywood-style monsters discuss all the various ways in which DirecTV or Comcast are "evil" compared to Spectrum cable. What's perhaps most impressive is the lightness of touch of the script - as good in its 60-second span as any prime-time comedy show, and laugh-track-free to-boot - contrasted with the absurdly stylised "monsterness" of the characters. If it wasn't the kiss of death to any such successful ad concept, we'd suggest there could be a good TV sitcom in the offing. See some more ads from the series over on our Facebook page.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: US cable companies suffered declines across the board in subscriber numbers as the competition from streaming services and "skinny bundles" intensified. Comcast's loss of 125,000 residential and business customers was four times higher than the previous quarter, and compared to a net gain in the year ago period. Charter suffered a loss of 104,000 customers, its 6th successive decline. However both companies also saw sharp increases in the number of internet subscribers. "Our broadband business is increasingly the epicenter of our relationship with customers," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: Weeks of exclusive talks between US telecoms company Sprint and Charter Communications came to an embarrassing roadblock after the former's controlling shareholder, Japanese tycoon Masayoshi Son, proposed a merger of the two companies that would create a huge force in cable and mobile communications worth in excess of $160bn. That offer was disclosed to the media on Friday last week. No thanks, said Charter on Sunday. The US also spurned Sprint as its mobile partner, saying it would press ahead with the launch of its MVNO mobile service through Verizon. Undeterred, Sprint said it was still considering making a formal offer to shareholders of either Charter or T-Mobile.
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Jun 2017: In a development that was first anticipated last month, US cable leaders Comcast and Charter have opened exclusive joint negotiations with the country's 4th largest mobile provider Sprint. Under discussion is some form of arrangement whereby the two cable companies could swap existing MVNO arrangements with Verizon for more favourable terms from Sprint, possibly in exchange for an equity involvement, or even a joint takeover of the business. According to reports, Charter's controlling shareholder John Malone favours the acquisition of Sprint, but has yet to convince Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Sprint, owned by Japanese company Softbank, has a current value of around $32bn, and the same amount again in debt. Separately, it has been pursuing talks with rival T-Mobile over a possible merger. Those negotiations have been put on pause for the time being, pending a deal with Comcast and Charter.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th May 2017: America's two leading cable companies have formed their own alliance to push back against the moves by Verizon and AT&T into entertainment programming. Comcast and Charter will share resources and technology as they launch their own branded wireless services, initially on an MVNO basis through bandwidth from Verizon. They have agreed not to make any material merger or acquisition within the telecoms sector without the other’s consent for at least a year. Analysts believe that the partnership might result in a shared bid for one of the two smaller wireless carriers, T-Mobile USA and Sprint.
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