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Ending the Year With a Bang?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a new meeting agenda late Tuesday, and, according to Multichannel News, the agency will use that time to vote on a rule that would keep an MSO from serving more than 30 percent of the pay-TV universe.

According to the article, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin "wants to impose the cap to frustrate Comcast's ability to make a big acquisition."

On the tit-for-tat scoreboard board, recall that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has already filed suit against the FCC over the agency's refusal to grant the MSO a waiver on some lower-end set-tops with baked-in security. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , meanwhile, just threatened court action if the FCC doesn't stay a rule that abolishes existing, exclusive contracts with multiple dwelling units. (See Comcast Takes CableCARD Battle to Court and NCTA Seeks MDU Ruling Reversal .)

News of such a vote emerged in the New York Times just after Martin failed to obtain the votes necessary to push his agenda on the so-called "70/70 rule," which could have given the FCC a basis for imposing new regulations on the cable industry. (See FCC Demands Cable Sub Data .)

"Like the 70/70 proposal, we expect the 30% proposal will trigger a contentious debate," said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. Analyst Craig Moffett in a note issued late last month, recalling that an appeals court rejected such a cap six years ago.

In a report distributed in March, the firm noted that Comcast, after it added systems from Adelphia Communications, is the only MSO remotely close to reaching the ownership limit. At the time, Comcast held about 27 percent, a figure that factors in "attributable subscribers" via partnerships with Insight Communications Co. Inc. , Midcontinent Communications, and Bresnan Communications LLC .

Multichannel News estimates that Comcast could acquire Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)'s (3.1 million) subs without breaching a 30 percent cap, but not Charter Communications Inc. , which has about 5.3 million subs.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 2:57:24 PM
re: Ending the Year With a Bang? Sure, CAblevision, Charter....and let's not forget CableOne, which is the tenth largest mso in the US.
msilbey 12/5/2012 | 2:57:24 PM
re: Ending the Year With a Bang? I think the FCC should just let Comcast acquire all the cable ops that begin with a C. That'd take out almost everyone in the big 5!
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