Charter Communications has officially released details on a deal to purchase Time Warner Cable for around $56.7 billion. If Charter buys Time Warner Cable, the merger would go hand-in-hand with another big Charter deal, the acquisition of Bright House Networks, which would make Charter a major play in the cable and Internet provider world. Charter will end up with 17 million residential TV subscribers and 18.8 million broadband subscribers, putting it at Comcast-like levels of provider dominance.
Please note that this is simply a proposed merger – very similar the Comcast merger with Time Warner that looked like it was a done deal for months. Eventually, the FCC shut down the Comcast deal with new requirements that forced Comcast out of the acquisition process. The same could happen with Charter, but there are fewer concerns over monopolies in this case, which could help Charter’s chances of success. Charter, meanwhile, hopes to have the deal completed by the end of 2015.
Charter Buys Time Warner Cable
So, Charter and Time Warner customers, what does this merger mean for you? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes that the deal would bring.
One of the biggest changes that Time Warner customers are likely to see is a name change. The merger project, including the merger with Bright House, is being called “New Charter” by the company. That name may not stick if the deals are finalized, but other brand names are definitely on the way out. Time Warner Cable, for example will become a thing of the past, and all their names for services and bundles will be out, too.
Instead, everything is likely to be grouped under the “Spectrum” service packages, Charter’s own brand name. How Spectrum packages will match up with the previous TWC services remains to be seen. There may not be many differences in prices and speeds, or there could be quite a few changes, depending on how Charter wants to run things. It’s too early to tell, and there’s a lot of corporate speak that could mean just about anything.
About all that corporate speak – along with the “Charter buys Time Warner Cable” announcement, the company also made a lot of promises to help ease subscriber concerns. Specifically, the company said that this merger would mean faster broadband for its users, a better cable TV interface, and more public Wi-Fi hotspots to use. Essentially, the argument is that by getting as big as Comcast, they will be able to improve customer service and control television distribution.
This brings up several problems. First, bigger is not better when it comes to customer service – Comcast’s size is often brought up as the major reason why it has the worst customer service in the country. Second, controlling TV distribution could easily mean “fewer choices” rather than “more choices.” Third, the statement included lines like “deliver a communications future that will unleash the full power of the two-way, interactive cable network,” a sentence so full of buzzwords and vagueness that it could mean absolutely anything.
At this point, Time Warner and Bright House customers, you’ll have to wait and see. Faster broadband may or may not happen. A better TV interface depends mostly on your own preferences. Public Wi-Fi, at least, is indeed likely to grow as customers will now have access to all the hotspots from three different companies.
Bundle It Up
Let’s be clear – Charter is not currently a ubiquitous cable provider the way that Comcast is. Traditionally, Charter’s markets are more selective, with a greater focus on Internet options in areas where it does not offer as many cable channels. But if Charter buys Time Warner Cable, New Charter could significantly increase the areas and even the number of channels that Charter could offer.
The result is likely to be more bundles in more locations. If you are a Charter customer, you could see additional bundle options in the future, with new selections and features that weren’t possible before. This may also be true of current TWC customers, who could see additional Charter features available for their new Spectrum bundles.
There are a couple new features that Time Warner customers can look forward to with the Charter merger. Again, these aren’t guaranteed, but they are certainly possibilities.
First, there is the Spectrum TV guide, which is probably what Charter means when it promises a better cable interface. You can take a look at the details here, but essentially this is a simple interface that sports a home page and quick start navigation. Nothing very fancy, but you may like it better than previous cable menus or smart TV layouts.
Second, there are additional Charter products like Worldbox, which is basically a set-top box with some DVR features designed to work with Charter content. With the merger, products like Worldbox have a better chance to become mainstream and perhaps even packaged as part of normal bundles.
What else will the merger accomplish? It’s still a bit too early to say, but more news is likely to drop in the coming months, so keep an eye open on other developments!