John Malone, who created the cable TV business, suggested that Comcast could merge with Charter Communications soon. In a freewheeling interview that was conducted recently at the Lions Gate Entertainment’s investor day, Malone said that if the administration under Trump eases the antitrust oversight, the merger between the two largest cable internet and cable TV providers would be very much possible.
“I’ve spent almost my entire career trying to consolidate the U.S. cable business, and it’s a question politically,” said Malone. “I mean, one could contemplate in a Trump administration maybe Comcast and Charter could merge; I don’t know, but there’ll be a lot of synergy, right?”
However, experts say that the merger of Charter and Comcast would find it much hard to get approved by the government, even under the new corporate-friendly government of Trump.
Comcast is the largest cable TV operator of the country, with about 23 million subscribers and the new Charter is almost about the same size, after acquiring Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable last year. “The new Charter is even bigger than what was Time Warner Cable,” said Robert Routh, media analyst at FBN Securities. “If they couldn’t do it before, there’s no way in hell they’d be successful buying it now.”
Interestingly, reports say that Verizon, which has largely become a wireless operator as they have sold most of their landline business to Frontier Communications, has approached Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei to discuss about acquiring Charter. Such a merger would combine the second largest cable TV and internet operator with the largest wireless provider of the country.
Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has made the initial approach to officials who are close to Charter Communications, which has a current market value of more than 80 billion dollars. Verizon is now studying the potential transaction, but there is no guarantee that a deal would be made. It is not yet clear if the Charter executives are open to a transaction.
A merger would bring together Verizon’s 114 million plus wireless users with the subscribers of Charter cable network. Currently, Charter offers their services to 17 million TV subscribers and 21 million broadband customers. Both Charter and Verizon are facing challenges to their business as growth in the US wireless market has slowed down and pressures in pricing has chipped away at the profit levels.