New York City Approves Time Warner Cable-Charter Merger

  • Charter commits to diversity, public access initiatives
  • Approval follows OK from New York state regulators in January

Charter Communications Inc. won approval from New York City to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc., inching closer to becoming the second-largest cable operator in the country.

The city’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee approved the transfer of its contracts between the companies during a public meeting on Wednesday. New York state’s Public Service Commission regulators had given the deal a green light in January after Charter committed to increase broadband speeds, expand network access in low-income communities and improve customer service. The city’s approval came after a separate review process to determine if the acquisition is in the public interest.

“We are pleased that this merger between Charter and Time Warner Cable is moving forward in a way that ensures they will meet all franchise obligations, and as well as the conditions set forth by the PSC –- and advocated for by the city –- with respect to broadband speed, cost, and availability and job protections,” Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor, said in a statement Wednesday.

To curry favor with city officials, Charter committed to several initiatives to increase diversity and improve public-access programming. The company agreed to appoint three minority members to its board within two years -- one African American, one of Asian or Pacific Island descent and one Hispanic American. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company also said it would create the position of chief diversity officer and hire more minorities.

“We look forward to successfully completing this transaction and bringing its many benefits to customers in New York City,” Justin Venech, a Charter spokesman, said in a statement. He declined to provide further detail on any commitments made to the city.

The $55.1 billion deal would create a larger No. 2 cable provider behind Comcast Corp., with customers in cities including Los Angeles and New York. Charter and supporters of the deal are still jockeying with critics during what could be federal regulators’ final weeks of reviewing the merger announced last May. Charter Chief Executive Officer Tom Rutledge said last week he hoped to conclude the review this May.

Charter, currently the No. 3 provider behind Time Warner, would almost quadruple its cable subscribers, gaining 12 million customers. The business would have about 17 million basic cable customers, compared with Comcast’s 22 million.

California is the only state yet to approve of the merger, according to Rutledge. Last week, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent division of the California Public Utilities Commission, said the deal should be rejected because it would likely lead to higher prices and lower service quality.

Shares of Charter rose 2 percent to $186.55 at the close Wednesday in New York. Time Warner Cable climbed 1 percent to $195.48, compared with an 0.5 percent increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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