As if the FCC didn't have enough on its plate, the US regulatory agency has now opened up a docket for review of Charter's proposed cable company acquisitions.
The official Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding was launched in anticipation of requests to transfer control of both Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks to Charter Communications Inc. Charter has agreed to buy out TWC in a transaction valuing that company at $78.7 billion. At the same time, Charter has also signed a deal to purchase Bright House for $10.4 billion. (See Charter Seals Deals for TWC, Bright House .)
Regulatory review of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable didn't end well for either of the companies involved. However, the Charter transaction is expected to face an easier time with the FCC and the Department of Justice because the impact on the market is expected to be smaller. A new cable company combining Charter, TWC and Bright House would control significantly less of both the broadband and video markets than a larger Comcast entity would have had it acquired Time Warner Cable.
Meanwhile, the FCC still has not yet restarted the regulatory shot clock on the other big merger in the works: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s bid to take over DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV). That review was suspended in March pending a court decision about whether select documents that provided details on programming contracts would have to be made available to a broad review committee. (See FCC Stops Clock on Merger Madness.)
Although the court case was more or less resolved when Comcast withdrew its proposal to buy TWC (most if not all of the documents being requested were related to those cable companies), the FCC did not resume its review process of the AT&T transaction. The agency has not indicated when that clock will be restarted.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading