With the FCC having assumed a publicly popular role of strident protector of consumer interests in regard to the Internet, BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield has already made the somewhat maverick claim that the proposed merger between Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) probably won't be approved.
So what will happen if regulators shoot down the deal? Greenfield postulated quite a few interesting possibilities in a blog post published last week.
Here are some highlights:
> Buy Netflix: "Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) could provide Comcast with an incredible team and platform to learn from, which could accelerate Comcast's virtual MVPD efforts," Greenfield writes. "Not to mention, Comcast could further the reach of Netflix domestically by integrating the service into its set-top boxes."
> Buy Cablevision: "While a failed merger with Time Warner Cable implies that Comcast simply cannot get bigger subscriber wise, they could voluntarily divest a few million subscribers to Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) and attempt to buy Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) to gain the New York City exposure they coveted in the TWC transaction," the analyst writes.
> Buy T-Mobile: "While we do not envision mobile broadband replacing wireline broadband anytime soon, given how much time consumers spend with their mobile devices, how can Comcast not have interest in being a large wireless provider?" Greenfield writes. "Comcast could seek to acquire T-Mobile USA. … If Masa Son is really disillusioned with Sprint, Comcast could be an elegant way for Softbank to exit their investment."
> Buy another major programming conglomerate: "Just as Rupert Murdoch's Fox wanted to buy Time Warner to gain access to an array of premium content, spanning HBO to Warner Bros., we have to imagine Comcast would have interest in acquiring Time Warner," Greenfield writes. "Other assets such as Lionsgate or MGM could be interesting, not to mention larger scale acquisitions such as Sony's US film and TV production studios and/or Paramount, if Viacom chose to split up its portfolio post-Sumner."
Comcast says that the work of its integration teams continues to unfold and that it still expects the merger to close later this year. But you get the sense that even Comcast's resolve is weakening a bit. During the company's Q4 earnings call last month, one company executive even used the phrase "if the deal is approved."
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