The Justice Department gave the green light — with conditions — to the Charter Communications proposed $78 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable and the related $10.4 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks from Advance/Newhouse Partnership.
The FCC soon followed with the chairman circulating a proposal to approve the deals among his fellow commissioners.
In a settlement with the DOJ, the merged “New Charter” entity is forbidden from entering or enforcing contracts that make it more difficult for online video distributers to obtain video content from programmers.
The DOJ’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in federal court to block the merger along with a proposed settlement; if the court approves, the proposal would resolve competitive harm alleged in the suit.
The department’s complaint alleges that as a result of the merger New Charter would have more incentive and ability to impose or broaden contractual restrictions on programmers that limit their ability to distribute their content through OVDs. According to the complaint, TWC has been an industry leader in seeking such restrictions; with its much larger subscriber base, New Charter would have even more to gain from frustrating OVD competition.
The combination of Charter, TWC and BHN into New Charter would create the second-largest cable company and the third-largest multi-channel video programming distributor in the United States, with over 17 million video subscribers.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an order on the 8th floor to approve the Charter/TWC/BHN deal subject to conditions, like making interconnection available on a non-discriminatory, settlement-free basis to companies that meet basic criteria.
After the commission adopts an order allowing the deal to proceed, the DOJ will file a competitive impact statement. The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register. Anyone with concerns will have 60 days to protest to the DOJ.