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Cablevision Won't Get Rid of James Dolan That Easy

Stocks in this article: CVC MSG TWC VZ T CMCSA AMCX

In addition, competition issues holding up over many blockbuster mergers in 2011 may make potential bidders more wary of antitrust authorities, potentially precluding bids from some large and emerging "triple play" package players.

Nevertheless, fostering competition against Comcast may even predispose regulators to a combination with an equally large player like Verizon or Time Warner Cable. However, Verizon is already a dominant player in the New York metro market where it's FiOS packages are challenging Cablevision's market share and overlap with 40% of subscribers. Added regional concentration with a Verizon tie-up and lessened competition would likely be unappealing to antitrust regulators.

For national wireless cellular carriers who also offer cable and broadband services a different set of issues emerge. Any potential non-New York centric national carrier interest for cable and broadband services from AT&T (T) or T-Mobile also is unlikely. Both are currently locked in a heated antitrust battle with the Department of Justice on their $39 billion merger.

However, in the long term, a Time Warner Cable bid seems most likely if the Dolans were to throw in the towel. Time Warner Cable currently operates in some of the New York and New Jersey areas where Cablevision has a small presence. Cablevision's presence in New York City, Long Island and Connecticut would be attractive to draw out savings on expenses like marketing and infrastructure.

"Despite market concentration with Time Warner Cable's Manhattan and Queens plant, the regulators would not block a deal given the considerable continued size gap to Comcast and more competitive video market and high service data markets," says Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities in an emailed note.

Ultimately, it doesn't seem likely that in the near-term, a strategic acquirer would come in for Cablevision -- especially considering the Dolan's past and the only handful of potential bidders. Price, competitive pressures and antitrust concerns may make a Cablevision sale unlikely in the near term.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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