It’s been more than a year since Comcast initially launched their bid to merge with Time Warner Cable in a stock swap deal reported to be worth more than $45B. (That’s “billion” with a B.) Because of the nature of the deal and the possible impact on consumers and open market competition, the deal would require approval from the FCC and the Department of Justice. The FCC was supposed to have a 180 day window to study the proposal and accept public comment. That process has been delayed three times now, currently on hold since March 13th. The latest news on this subject may represent a complete derailing of the merger as the companies’ hopes for approval could be turned over to a judge.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission appears to have thrown a wrench in Comcast Corp’s ETB 0.38% $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable Inc TWC -4.64% , according to The Wall Street Journal.
FCC staff have recommended the agency put the deal in the hands of an administrative law judge, a move the WSJ said would be taken “as a strong sign that the FCC doesn’t believe the deal is in the public interest.”
A hearing could be a drawn-out process, and some regulatory experts describe the procedure as a deal-killer, although Comcast would be entitled to make its case for the acquisition.
As the report from Fortune reminds us, similar deals in the past have completely tanked after being handed off to a judge. One of the prime examples was AT&T’s attempt to absorb T-Mobile, which never wound up happening.
Just putting in my two cents here, I hope they find a judge that not only shoots down the deal, but tars and feathers it before running it out of town on a rail. Business Insider provided a stark list of the probable outcomes of such a merger more than a year ago, beginning with this rather apt description.
If you thought Time Warner or Comcast were capable of creating more than enough misery for customers on their own (high prices, terrible service, higher prices…), just wait until you see what they can do when they join forces.
All of this should be common sense to consumers who have any history of dealing with either of these outfits. Recent rankings of customer service by the nation’s 150 largest companies ranked both of these two in the bottom ten. And that’s when they’re ostensibly supposed to be competing with each other for your business. One can only imagine the incentive they’ll have to up their game when they control more than a third of the cable TV market and better than half of the nation’s broadband access.
As far as prices and consumer choice options go, get ready to unplug from the grid entirely. Neither one has been shy about jacking up prices in the past and draining most of the competition out of the pool certainly won’t encourage them to tighten their belts to save you any cash. Further, cable companies hate the idea of offering you custom packages of just the content you want, theoretically allowing you to pay less. They bundle all sorts of channels which most of us would never wind up tuning to in with the few stations which actually carry a significant amount of programming worth watching. Any dreams of such a la carte ordering schemes will go out the window. (Not that we have much hope of getting them now, but still…)
There may, in the end, be no way of stopping this, but if it goes through, the only people who will be happy about it are those who are heavily invested in their stock. This is a field which screams for more competition, not less, and the two headed monster which will emerge from this deal will likely prove impossible to slay.