Charter Communications completed its takeover of larger rival Time Warner Cable (and also regional operator Brighthouse Networks) in May 2016, to create the second largest US cable operator after Comcast. The combined Charter/TWC service relaunched as Charter Spectrum, serving around 24m residential and business customers across 41 US states. Thomas Rutledge is chairman & CEO, but the company's biggest shareholders are media tycoons John Malone, via his Liberty Broadband vehicle, and the Newhouse family, owners of Advance and Conde Nast. The deal more than quadrupled the size by customers of the original Charter business, and revenues are expected to rise from under $10bn in 2015 to around $36bn. 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. However, that combination was blocked by regulators on competition grounds, allowing Charter to snap up the orphaned TWC on the rebound. Adbrands does not profile this company but subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.
Capsule checked 5th July 2016
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th May 2016: As had been expected, US federal regulators approved two key deals that will reshape the US cable industry. Charter Communications' acquisition of both Time Warner Cable and BrightHouse Networks, and the purchase of Cablevision by French group Altice were both greenlit by the FCC. Final approval is still required from the states of California and New York respectively, but no last-minute complications are expected. The enlarged Charter moves up to become the #2 broadband provider, and #3 video supplier in the US, behind Comcast and AT&T respectively. Altice will be the #4 cable provider.
Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Mar 2016: There were reports that US regulators plan to approve Charter Communications' proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable, but with some conditions. These are primarily designed to prevent the merged entity from restricting the availability of content through rival viewing channels, especially online streaming. Nor will it be able to throttle broadband service, thereby affecting the quality of streamed media. Charter may also be obliged to to boost the available bandwidth of its broadband service, and offer other concessions that would improve the viability of online video.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th May 2015: John Malone, often regarded as the godfather of the US cable industry for his pioneering role in the 1990s, has picked up the pieces from the failed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and put them back together in a new design. Malone's Liberty Broadband entity is already the biggest shareholder in Charter Communications, whose previous bids for Time Warner Cable were shunned in favour of Comcast. Now he has agreed not only to acquire TWC for $55bn in cash in stock (or $79bn including debt), but also resurrected a separate side-deal for smaller Bright House Networks worth around $10.4bn. The combination requires approval from regulators, but this should be an easier sell than the Comcast deal. The combined business would have considerably less broadband dominance than the proposed Comcast/TWC merger would have had. But it will reach around 24m customers spread across 41 states, closing the gap with Comcast's current footprint of 27m subscribers. Liberty would end up with a 25% voting stake in the enlarged business. The Newhouse family, owners of the Advance/Newhouse media empire which currently includes Bright House, would have around 7%.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Apr 2015: As expected, Comcast confirmed the collapse of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable following opposition from regulators. A linked deal with Charter Communications to swap customers in selected markets was also abandoned. Though there was little overlap between Comcast and Time Warner Cable's cable footprints, the combination had been widely opposed by channel owners and streaming media suppliers because of the stranglehold a merged group would have had on supply, especially of broadband services, where it would have had 57% market share. Comcast has already clashed repeatedly with Netflix and others for allegedly throttling internet bandwidth at peak times, resulting in slow internet speeds. "Today, we move on," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. "Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away." Analysts are betting that Comcast's failure will prompt Charter to renew its own pursuit of Time Warner Cable. But where might Comcast turn next? With DirecTV already under offer from AT&T, it may be time to consider rival satellite broadcaster Dish, which recently launched its own broadband TV service Sling. Some analysts predict a move into the international market, and have suggested the company might be starting to look at European pay-TV operators like Murdoch-controlled Sky or John Malone's Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media in the UK as well as several continental services.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Apr 2015: The proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast looks set to collapse following a recommendation by the FCC that it go to an administrative hearing. The two companies have been negotiating with regulators for more than a year, apparently without success. It had initially been assumed that the minimal overlap between the two cable providers' US footprint would have encouraged a quick approval, but the deal has faced staunch opposition from content providers such as Discovery Communications and non-cable rivals like Netflix. Most analysts regard this referral decision as a death knell for the merger. "The question now," said one, "is how soon does Comcast walk away? And what does it do next?" Failure of the TWC-Comcast deal would have a knock-on effect for Charter Communications, which had agreed to swap a package of subscribers with the combined group. Its proposed merger with Bright House Networks would also probably be abandoned.
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