John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media (which has a significant 27% investment in Charter), was reportedly instrumental in Charter’s acquisition, and has been not only rooting for cable industry consolidation but new business development on the TV-video digital front. In particular, Malone has been miffed the cable industry didn’t come up with the likes of Netflix -- and possibly Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and others .
Liberty Media and Malone’s previous company, Tele-Communications, have long taken investment stakes in many programming networks/services -- everything from Discovery Communications and QVC to DirecTV.
In its presentations of the deal to analysts and the press, Charter highlighted the fact that, unlike Comcast Corp, it didn’t have any programming interests. Why did Charter bring this up? In part, to help its case against possible Federal regulator concerns. Additionally, Charter says the combined companies would represent only 30% of all broadband customers and 17% of all pay TV video customers.
But, in fact, Charter will take ownership of a programming service after the mergers: Time Warner Cable’s troubled regional sports TV channel SportsNet LA, which offers the Los Angeles Dodgers. Time Warner Cable has been unable to sell the service to Los Angeles-area pay TV providers, leaving 70% of those area customers unable to access the channel. Too pricey, say pay TV operators.
One report in the Los Angeles Times now says all this is about to change, with Charter making it available -- presumably with more favorable pay TV provider agreements.
This could be the tip of the warming cable TV iceberg for Charter.
Has Charter already started prepping its entry for more traditional and digital TV programming deals with the help of Malone? That seems to be a likely push.