Comcast said Thursday it had agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in a deal that would combine the two biggest cable companies in the United States.
If the deal is approved, the combined group will be the country’s dominant provider of television channels and Internet services.
The two companies expect the merger to take effect by the end of the year, but regulators are likely to take a close look at the potential impact on consumers.
To address those concerns, Comcast said it was prepared to divest about 3 million subscribers. But it would still have about 30 million customers.
The proposed deal ends months of jockeying for control of Time Warner Cable, the second biggest U.S. supplier of cable television, with about 11 million subscribers in cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Smaller rival Charter (CHTR, Fortune 500) wanted to buy Time Warner Cable, indicating last month it was ready to pay about $130 per share.
Time Warner Cable called that price “grossly inadequate” and countered with a suggestion of $160 per share, very close to Comcast’s offer. Comcast had cast a shadow over the negotiations, and had reportedly held talks with Charter about how to divvy up Time Warner Cable’s territories.
By swallowing Time Warner Cable on its own, Comcast will gain even more leverage over the country’s marketplace for television, broadband Internet and phone services. Comcast has about 23 million television subscribers in markets like Philadelphia, where it is headquartered.
With millions more subscribers, Comcast will add muscle in its negotiations with cable channel owners like The Walt Disney Company (DIS, Fortune 500) and Time Warner (TWC, Fortune 500), the parent company of this website. (Time Warner Cable was spun off from Time Warner in 2009 and no longer has any connection to the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Bros.)
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