Video services

FCC Sets Up Review Team for Charter Deals

No rest for the weary.

With a review of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s proposal to acquire DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) still underway, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that it's ready to start evaluating Charter Communications Inc. 's bid to purchase both Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks . The FCC review committee will be chaired by General Counsel Jonathan Sallet, who will be joined by Owen M. Kendler on loan from the Department of Justice. Most recently, Kendler served as Assistant Chief of the Telecommunications & Media Enforcement Section in the DoJ's Antitrust Division.

Also on tap to participate in the review are several FCC bureau chiefs, including Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake, International Bureau Chief Mindel De La Torre, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Matthew DelNero and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Roger Sherman. Former Chief Economist for the FCC William Rogerson will act as senior economist on the review team. He has also been the senior economist in charge of reviewing the Comcast/TWC and AT&T/DirecTV transactions.

The FCC officially opened its docket on the proposed Charter deals on June 24, with all of the companies involved filing their merger applications the following day. Charter is proposing to buy out Time Warner Cable in a cash-and-stock transaction that, with debt included, values the company at $78.7 billion. It's also signed an agreement to purchase Bright House for $10.4 billion. (See FCC Starts Reviewing Charter Deals and Charter Seals Deals for TWC, Bright House .)

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Charter is pushing hard to get its merger proposals approved after regulators precipitated the collapse of a similar deal between Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and TWC. To combat the suggestion that the mergers would decrease market competition, Charter has listed several public benefits that would stem from the creation of a larger company. They include the spread of more advanced TV services, faster and farther-reaching broadband, the expansion of a broadband program for low-income Americans and promises to abide by net neutrality regulations that are currently under fire from much of the cable industry. (See Hey New Charter Subs, You're Getting a Worldbox!)

Although there is no official timeline yet on the Charter/TWC/Bright House review, the FCC typically sets up a shot clock covering 180 days. The clock is supposed to indicate roughly how long the review will take, but many transactions see that timer halted for long periods of time. The shot clock for the AT&T/DirecTV deal was stopped back in March, but it is now widely believed that the FCC will approve that transaction in the near future. (See AT&T Goes Extra Broadband Mile .)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

kq4ym 7/12/2015 | 5:18:41 PM
Politics? One wonders how much if any political influence might be guiding the final decisions of the review team and just how the members were chosen and by whom. Such a large deal, I would think may very well take longer thatn 180 days but is there a sense of urgency on the FCC's part ot get this deal done quickly?
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