Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In U.S., Cable TV Companies are Consumer Services Market Leaders, Not Telcos

Should the Charter Communications bid to acquire Time Warner Cable pass regulatory muster, and some of us would bet it will, more light will be shed on the relative roles of cable TV and telephone companies in the fixed network high speed access market, and also of market power generally.

The perhaps surprising result would be that In the fixed network Internet access segment, Comcast would be number one, Charter number two, AT&T third.

Think about that: the two largest legacy telcos would rank no better than third and fourth in the core service provided by the fixed network.

Verizon would rank fourth. CenturyLink would rank fifth, Cablevision Systems sixth and Frontier Communications seventh.

In the top five spots, cable TV companies would be number one and two providers, with even the largest U.S. telcos ranking third, fourth and fifth.

That would make cable TV operators the leaders for consumer services, though telcos would continue to lead in enterprise and business services. Keep in mind, however, that business services are the big growth leaders for cable TV companies.

Comcast and Charter would represent perhaps 40 million customers, while AT&T and Verizon have about 25 million.

AT&T has about 16 million Internet access customers. Verizon has 9.2 million.

Most observers would agree Comcast’s market share in high speed access was the deal killer when Comcast tried to buy Time Warner Cable.

Comcast would have had about 57 percent share of high speed access. That was an issue--and frankly always has been--whenever any fixed network supplier reached 30 percent share of U.S. homes.

A Charter-owned Time Warner Cable, plus Bright House Networks, would have substantial share, but probably well below the 30-percent level that traditionally has triggered antitrust concerns (some might peg high speed access share closer to 30 percent).

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