Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable (Update)

UPDATE There is news today in the cable TV industry in the US where market leader Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable (TWC) for a whopping $45 billion. The deal heads off a takeover bid of TWC by John Malone’s Charter Communications and creates an empire which USA Today reckons will include 68 million subscribing households across the nation with revenues of $88 billion. This is a blow for Malone, who wanted to take over TWC with Charter Communications, which has about six million subscribers and revenues of around $8 billion a year. Malone has been promoting market consolidation for some time but this is not what he was hoping for. It remains to be seen whether this will increase or decrease his interest in the Formula One group, which he sees as a valuable content provider for his global TV networks.

As one can see from the numbers involved these companies are large enough to snap up the F1 business without too much trouble.

It is also worth noting that Comcast also owns NBCUniversal, which broadcasts F1 in the United States, so the new deal should increase the number of F1 viewers in the US. Joe Saward

02/13/14 Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion Wednesday night, swooping in to top a bid by Charter Communications to merge the nation's top two cable companies in a huge media deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In the all-stock deal, Comcast will pay $159 per share, representing an 18% premium from TWC's Wednesday closing price of $135.31.

TWC's shares have been rising as Comcast and Charter, backed by John Malone-led Liberty Media (who is also looking to buy F1), have been jostling for months to acquire TWC and its 15 million customers, who subscribe to Internet, cable TV and phone services.

The deal is expected to be confirmed by both companies on Thursday morning, but even so any agreement will face intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators, who will have to wade through the issues of competitive pressures and the effects on pricing stemming from merging two cable giants.

But the cable industry could be entering a period of consolidation as it faces challenges from multiple directions, and struggling companies may need a white knight if they are to sustain their business. As evidenced by TWC's costly fight with CBS Corp. last year over retransmission fees, TV station owners are demanding higher fees for the right to broadcast their signal. Cable networks are demanding higher fees for their shows, as cost of programming, particularly for sports events, rises. And consumers are increasingly ditching their expensive cable bills for online streaming options.

The number of TWC's residential consumers fell by 85,000 to 14.4 million in the fourth quarter, partly due to its dispute with CBS.

With the competition between Charter and Comcast for TWC's assets so stiff, there had been reports late last year that the two companies may jointly bid for a deal.

Malone, a cable industry legend and chairman of Liberty Media, has been advocating industry consolidation. With Liberty Media's large stake in Charter, Malone's desire to facilitate a deal for Charter to buy TWC has been widely known.

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