Industry CEOs Speak Up on Comcast-Time Warner Deal

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A week since the announcement, Comcast's (CMCSA) $45.2 billion bid for Time Warner Cable  (TWC) has already been debated every which way. Yet, until now, the broadcast industry's biggest players have remained quiet. Finally, in a series of post-earnings calls, (DTV), Dish Network  (DISH) and Charter Communications  (CHTR) have spoken up on what would be an unprecedented consolidation of the sector.

Looking at the deal, it should be enough to cause even an industry giant concern. If the deal passes as proposed, a combined Comcast-Time Warner would create a broadcasting powerhouse in a business already replete with low competition and high barriers to entry. In its broadband division alone, Comcast-Time Warner would have dominance in two-thirds of the U.S. marketplace.

And yet, the industry's response is far from panicked.

In a call Thursday, Mike White, CEO of the largest satellite provider DirecTV, urged federal regulators to ensure the deal is "appropriately scrutinized."

"It certainly creates some significant changes in the competitive landscape that we need to think about," said White.

Charlie Ergen, CEO of fellow satellite-TV operator Dish Networks (DISH), took a more aggressive note on a call Friday, arguing the merger would consolidate broadband, video and content segments to create a "nationwide player."

"That's going to send a seismic shift across our industry in ways that maybe we can't predict today," he said.

A silver lining, Ergen noted it would clear the way for a potential Dish-DirecTV merger in the future, an idea previously suggested but not attempted since U.S. regulators rejected a similar proposal in 2002.

He noted the deal "certainly doesn't hurt the case for consolidation within the satellite industry."

Meanwhile, one-time suitor of Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, shied from taking a position on the merger. Charter had vied for Time Warner earlier this year only to have its $37.3 billion offer rejected.

Charter CEO Tim Rutledge parried questions by noting the company would continue to pursue alternative deals to gain greater market share.

"Notwithstanding everything that has happened, we are still interested in wisely acquiring subscribers through M&A when that opportunity arises," said Rutledge in a call with analysts.

Comcast's offer to purchase Time Warner has yet to pass antitrust scrutiny from federal regulators.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff. 

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