With more cable horror stories emerging every week, the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable looks less likely than ever. So much so that both companies are beginning to think about a potential plan B. Fortunately for them, there are plenty of other merger partners, many of whom might raise fewer eyebrows among the nation’s top regulators.
Should the deal with Comcast fall through, Time Warner Cable could find itself back in the crosshairs of Charter Communications, which had already mulled a takeover of the country’s second largest cable provider, before being outbid by Comcast. Another idea that’s been tossed around is that of a joint bid by Comcast and Charter to buy and then divvy up Time Warner’s service area between them, perhaps causing regulators to look more favorably on the transaction.
Comcast is also eyeing other partners. If acquiring another cable company would be frowned upon, Comcast could increase it’s footprint with a wireless provider instead. Parent company Deutsche Telekom has long had a “for sale” sign on US subsidiary T-Mobile, especially since a proposed merger with rival AT&T fell through. Sprint, owned by Japan’s SoftBank, is another carrier that appeal to Comcast. Last but not least, some have speculated that Netflix could be an intriguing acquisition for the Philadelphia cable giant. Putting Netflix on Comcast’s cable boxes could be quite a benefit. And while Comcast has certainly been stung by regulators lately during the net neutrality and merger debates, buying such an outspoken company could also have the side effect of silencing one of Comcast’s major critics.