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FCC Approves Altice's $17 Billion Acquisition of Cablevision

3 May, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The Federal Communications Commission May 3 formally approved Dutch-based telecom conglomerate Altice N.V.’s $17 billion purchase of Cablevision Systems Corp., which includes about 3 million pay-TV subscribers in Manhattan, N.Y.

The FCC said the acquisition was “unlikely to adverse competitive effects,” and was “likely to result in some public interest benefits of increased broadband speeds and more affordable options [$14.99 monthly] for low-income consumers in Cablevision’s service territory."

Cablevision has been one of the first domestic pay-TV operators to embrace third-party subscription streaming services, including direct-connect options for Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now for its Optimum broadband subscribers.

Unlike recent mergers involving AT&T and DirecTV, and Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable, which prompted consumer and industry pushback, the Altice/Cablevision pact featured criticism from a trade union (citing potential job losses) and Zoom Electronics regarding cable modem billing certification.

The FCC wasn’t dissuaded, saying that the lack of any record regarding transaction-specific harms related to applicants’ certification policies, negated imposing conditions related to modem certification.

“Although we find that the public interest benefits are limited, the scales tilt in favor of granting the applications because of the absence of harms,” the FCC wrote. 

The transaction, which still requires New York state regulatory approval, would end one of the last family-owned pay-TV operations. Charlie Dolan founded Cablevision in 1973, with son James operating as current CEO. The family is expected to get a $2.2 billion payout as part of the transaction.

The Dolans will still control AMC Networks, the New York Knicks NBA franchise, New York Rangers NHL team and Madison Square Garden — all of which are not part of the deal.

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