With a single behemoth purchase, Comcast is creating a dominant force in American entertainment and presenting federal regulators with an equally outsized quandary: How should they handle a conglomerate that promises to improve cable and internet service to millions of homes but also consolidates unprecedented control of the market?
Comcast says its $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable will provide faster, more reliable service to more customers and save money on costs. If the acquisition gets approved, Comcast would serve some 30 million cable customers and 32 million internet subscribers.
But industry watchdogs say the deal would give the company too much power and ultimately raise the price of high-speed connections.
“How much power over content do we want a single company to have?” said Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, a Washington-based consumer-interest group.
The all-stock deal approved by the boards of both companies trumps a proposal from Charter Communications to buy Time Warner Cable for about $38 billion.
Shares of Time Warner Cable jumped 7 percent, or $9.49, to close Thursday at $144.80 after the deal was announced, while broader trading indexes rose less than 1 percent. Comcast shares fell more than 4.1 percent, or $2.28, to close at $52.97.