Comcast occupies Crimea, I'm sorry, California

28 April 2014 by Steve Blum
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Comcast will be, by far, the dominant cable company in California, if the proposed acquisition of Time-Warner Cable and today’s announcement of a pie-slicing deal with Charter Communications come to pass.

In order to get the Time-Warner purchase past federal regulators, Comcast wants to trim back what would be its combined customer base to 30 million homes, which is about half the cable TV subscribers in the U.S. So this morning it announced a scheme to spin off some Time-Warner subscribers into a company effectively controlled by Charter Communications (which would become the second biggest cable operator in the U.S.), and do a swap that would let Comcast and Charter consolidate markets, like Los Angeles and California’s central coast, into massive walled gardens.

Much like the European powers who carved up colonial Africa in the 19th century (and reminiscent of the Great Game revival going on in Ukraine right now), Comcast and Charter would trade systems in such a way as to give them effective control of entire regions of the U.S. Except for the Reno-Tahoe area and a tiny corner of Utah, Comcast gets Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and the West Coast, including California (but not Alaska).

There are other players in the mix – Cox, Suddenlink, Wave, Brighthouse and some teeny-tinys – but the bottom line is that California will belong to Comcast. It’s already put a sizeable down payment on the state legislature and other key elective positions, pumping at least $1.2 million into politicians’ campaign pockets since 2003. With today’s cynical deal, Comcast is ready to take up occupancy.

Map of Charter’s docsis 3 markets in California (everything except the Tahoe area goes to Comcast), credit to the California Public Utilities Commission’s online broadband availablility map.

Map of Charter’s sub-docsis 3 markets. Credit, again, to CPUC.

Map of combined Comcast and Time-Warner markets (I haven’t had time yet to do an all-up mash-up from the CPUC’s map that includes Charter territories de la República de California).

Joint Comcast/Charter presentation from this morning’s analyst conference call, which includes a nice map showing how the two companies are slicing up California and the U.S.