SBD/February 14, 2014/Media

Comcast Expects TWC Acquisition To Be Scrutinized, But Says Deal Maintains Competition

Roberts rushed back from Sochi as the TWC deal was near the finish line
Comcast "expects a fight from media watchdogs" over its $45.2B deal to acquire Time Warner Cable, but is "confident that the sale will receive approval from lawmakers and regulators," according to James & Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts said, "I think we will get real scrutiny." However, he noted the deal "does not reduce competition in any market or in any way." The agreement would give Comcast "nearly 30 million subscribers in the nation's largest markets," with a "presence in 19 of the top 20 markets of the U.S. -- an unprecedented reach for a cable and Internet service provider" (L.A. TIMES, 2/13). CABLEFAX DAILY notes Comcast will get "two RSNs -- Time Warner Cable SportsNet and TWC Deportes -- as well as "14 sports channels (a mixture of local sports, some college some high school, etc)." There also is "TWC's investment in SNY and its deal with the Dodgers channel (TWC Sportsnet LA) for long-term carriage/cost certainty" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 2/14).  In Houston, David Barron wrote the deal "could provide a significant statewide viewership boost" for CSN Houston "across Texas, if not in Houston itself" (CHRON.com, 2/13).

BIG MAN ON CABLE: In N.Y., de la Merced & Carter in a front-page piece write the deal "further establishes the reputation" of Roberts as "a daring deal maker with expansive ambitions" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/14). Also in N.Y., David Gelles shares an account of what led to Comcast's announcement. Before Roberts boarded a plane to Sochi, he called TWC Chair & CEO Robert Marcus with a message: "The deal was on." Roberts said, "We were not intensely engaged with Time Warner Cable until the last 10 days or so." In Sochi, Roberts "juggled calls about the deal with a dinner" hosted by the IOC and attended by Russia President Vladimir Putin, as well as "meetings with the 2,700 NBC staff members on the ground." NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, who also worked on the deal, said that Roberts was "on the phone constantly" during the Opening Ceremony. Burke: "He got to see the opening ceremony, but I think he was on the phone 20 times a day while he was in Sochi. When we went through security checkpoints, he was cradling his phone to his ear." Roberts "returned from Sochi on Sunday, and called Marcus to check in" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/14). In L.A., Flint reports Roberts "rushed back" from Sochi as the deal was "near the finish line." Roberts and the Comcast team "huddled with Time Warner Cable" in N.Y. and "finalized a deal Wednesday night" (L.A. TIMES, 2/14).
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