It’s True: The Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger Is Officially Dead

comcast-twclogo_NOGOAs it was predicted yesterday, so it has come to pass: after 15 months of trying to get it approved, and opposition not only from consumers, consumer advocates, and lawmakers but also from regulators, Comcast is giving up on its dreams of acquiring Time Warner Cable and walking away entirely from the merger.

In a statement, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts accepted defeat, saying, “Today, we move on.  Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away.”

That proved to be a prescient move for the cable behemoth, as regulators did indeed decide that the deal would make Comcast too big and give them too much leverage in an already uncompetitive market. Comcast filed the termination documents with the SEC this morning.

Roberts also thanked Comcast and Time Warner Cable employees for their hard work on the ultimately-failed merger, and added, “I couldn’t be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what’s next.”

Rumors swirled earlier this week that Comcast might walk away from the acquisition after sources inside both the Justice Department and the FCC told press that Comcast’s case wasn’t looking good. An objection from either agency would have been enough to stop the merger, as we explained yesterday. That both agencies objected, and could not agree with Comcast on conditions that would make the merger acceptable, means that Comcast would have had to spend an extraordinary amount of time and money publicly airing its dirty laundry to try to convince them otherwise — and would probably still have failed.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler applauded Comcast’s decision to back off from the merger, saying in a statement that the proposed merger “would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation.”

Our colleagues at Consumers Union and our parent company Consumer Reports also cheered on the end of the merger. “This is a major victory for consumers who stood up against a media Goliath and won, and a major victory for everyone who wants a fair and competitive marketplace,” said Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “Comcast never was able to make a convincing case for why the merger would benefit anyone other than Comcast.”

“This mega merger was a sweet deal for Comcast but a poor one for consumers that would have hurt competition and stifled innovation,” added Ellen Bloom, senior director of federal policy at Consumers Union. “Comcast would have profited handsomely, while consumers ended up paying more and facing fewer choices.”

“The defeat of Comcast’s mega merger and the FCC’s decision earlier this year to enact strong net neutrality rules shows that the people can win when they stand united,” Bloom concluded. “We applaud the regulators and members of Congress who sided with consumers and opposed this deal. Now it’s time to get to work to foster more competition and affordable choices in the broadband market.”

CU advocated ardently against the merger, both on their own and also as members of the Stop Mega-Comcast Coalition.

Consumers, content companies, and what few competitors exist are now spared from Comcast getting even larger. But Time Warner Cable remains an attractive acquisition target: Charter may try again to purchase some or all of the cable company, which still has attractive footholds in New York and L.A. And Comcast won’t want to sit idle; they’ve got $45 billion burning a hole in their pocket and will want to spend it on something.

But for now, for today at least, Comcast and TWC can now join AT&T and T-Mobile in the “too bad, so sad” failed-merger afterparty room while the rest of us take a quick sigh of relief.

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