Comcast: Are Vultures Circling the Merger?

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

OK, so it’s probably a bit much to say the vultures are circling over the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. After all, the “vulture” in question is John Malone of Charter — the guy who originally was trying to buy Time Warner before Comcast swooped in — and he still gives Comcast’s efforts an 80 percent chance of succeeding.

Only thing: Those odds are less impressive than they used to be.

Deadline Hollywood reports:

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone hasn’t lost his lust for Time Warner Cable. That’s the unmistakable message he delivered today at Liberty’s Investor Day gathering when he was asked whether Charter — where he’s the top shareholder — would take another run at TWC if its current $45 billion deal with Comcast falters. “Hell yes,” Malone said, reaffirming his reputation as one of media’s most reliable straight shooters. The answer could be important: A small, but growing, group of investors question whether the Comcast-TWC deal will survive FCC and Justice Department scrutiny.

Multichannel News adds:

Liberty Media chairman John Malone said he would pursue Time Warner Cable again if Its current deal with Comcast is rejected by regulators.  However, he noted that his current arrangement with both companies is probably the best outcome.   “Oh yes,” Malone said in an immediate response to a question in whether he would want Charter Communications to restart its pursuit of Time Warner Cable in the absence of a Comcast deal. “That said, we’re happy with the deal that was negotiated. In many ways it’s a better deal than going after 100% of Time Warner Cable.”

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Comcast and the “Digital Divide”

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The Financial Times over the weekend had one of the better articles we’ve seen offering an overview of the Comcast-Time Warner merger, net neutrality, and how the two issues seem to intertwine.

“What is clear is that the FCC faces two important decisions: how to proceed on net neutrality and whether to approve Comcast’s takeover,”  FT’s David Crow writes. “Both have huge implications for broadband in the US, and will affect a swath of media and telecoms groups, as well as millions of consumers – including those on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

Three takeways from that piece:

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Comcast Unveils Voice-Activated Features for the Blind

Comcast comes under so much criticism for everything that sometimes it’s good to remember that the company does some cool stuff, too.

This week, for example, the company unveiled a “talking guide” for blind users of its X1 set-top cable box. (See Comcast’s video, above, for a demonstration.) Yes: Blind folks enjoy television, too.
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Comcast Promises: No “Fast Lanes” on the Internet

One concern about the Internet’s future is that the big companies which control the pipes might use their power to let some content get through to its audience faster than other content. (Or, conversely, some content slower than other content.) Maybe it’s because the giant company doesn’t like the content. Or the customer. Or maybe it just wants to make more money and thus charge a higher toll to content providers that want to use the fast lane.

Comcast promises it plans not to be part of any such future. And those promises may determine how far the company gets in its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

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Questioning Comcast’s Merger Plans

Will Comcast be able to pull off its merger with Time Warner Cable? The smart money says yes — the company has a lot of muscle in Washington D.C. —but there’s a real possibility that federal regulators will put strict conditions on their approval.

Let’s see what the headlines have to say about this:

Is Comcast’s Time Warner Cable Acquisition in Jeopardy? As an investor, you would be foolish to not want the Comcast/Time Warner acquisition to go through. And although the market appears to be hedging its bets, it’s a pretty good chance the FCC and DOJ will sign off on the merger. The larger entity will be better equipped to negotiate programming costs with channels. As a subscriber, the result of this acquisition is less important than most think. However, that doesn’t mean that pay-TV providers aren’t starting to pay attention to changing demands. Last year pay-TV experienced its first every year-over-year subscriber drop as a result of the powerful trend of cord cutting. And many of those still with pay-TV are looking a smaller, less-expensive packages with an emphasis on Internet service rather than TV. If pay-TV doesn’t adjust to this trend by adding more value, the result of this merger is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Could Comcast Investment Solve Customer Service Issues?

Comcast-tower-night-photo-jeff-fusco-940x540

You know Comcast has been in trouble lately over customer service issues? Comcast Ventures, the (natch) venture capital arm of the company, just made a big investment that might help resolve those issues.

Portland Business Journal reports that Comcast Ventures was the big investor in Lytics, a software company that just raised $7 million in funding. Andrew Cleland, a partner at Comcast Ventures, will join the Lytics board.

And what does Lytics do?

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Our First-Ever Good Comcast Headlines Roundup

We’ve seen a few complaints lately that we only print bad news about Comcast in these parts — and we kind of understand: Comcast is our hometown hero here in Philadelphia, but it’s also a big cable company and people don’t like their cable company, almost ever. So when we go searching for headlines about the company to relay to you, we often end up stuck with a series of stories that must give heartburn to Comcast execs.

We’ll take a day off from that today, and present you with the first-ever presentation of the Good Comcast Headlines Roundup!

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Was Comcast Too Aggressive With Its Merger Defense?

When we posted Comcast’s defense of its merger with Time Warner, we noted that the document — filed last week with the Federal Communications Commission — was “combative in tone and words.”

In fact, that combativeness may work against getting federal approval for the merger, New York Times media columnist David Carr writes today.

A particular problem, he said, was accusing rival companies of “extortion” for opposing the Comcast-Time Warner merger after failing to extract concessions from Comcast for doing so.

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