The regulatory hurdles in the way of Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable have become higher with news that the cable companies are under investigation for potential backing of rival services.
US regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has asked eight media companies — including Walt Disney, CBS, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive, Twenty-First Century Fox, Time Warner Inc., Viacom and Univision Communications to describe any limits to online distribution in agreements with the two largest U.S. cable providers. Regulators in 2011 barred Comcast from inhibiting online competition.
This has been done in a series of letters to each of the aforementioned and the regulator has given the firms a deadline of 13 March 2015 to reply.
If the merger goes through, Comcast would increase its number of video subscribers from 21.1 million to 31.4 million (including Bright House Networks and Midcontinent Communications), and will gain control of TWC's regional sports networks (RSNs) in New York and Los Angeles, where Comcast already owns the local NBC TV stations. Charter meanwhile would increase the number of video subscribers 4.2 million to up to eight million subscribers (including SpinCo).
The move has caused alarm among rivals with The American Cable Association (ACA) calling on the FCC to impose conditions on the megamerger to "create meaningful protections for small and medium-sized cable operators".