Charter CEO Tom Rutledge seemed a bit like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel talking about his amp going to 11 when CNBC’s Jon Fortt asked exactly the right question in a panel today at the National Cable Show: What changed to make him support Comcast’s $45B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which Charter opposed last month saying would leave Comcast controlling “nearly 40 percent of the broadband market, around 33 million TV subscribers and a major programmer in NBCUniversal”? The real answer is that Charter was bought off this week when Comcast agreed to sell it many of the subs it had already promised to divest, making Charter the industry’s No. 2. Rutledge couldn’t say that, of course. Instead he avoided the core issue and said that “It’s a smaller deal from Comcast’s perspective and from an organization of the industry perspective it’s a much better outcome.” The companies “are committed to serving their communities and their employees and their customers.”
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was a little smoother in addressing a question about concentration concerns raised by critics including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “When you net this all out, we’re buying 7M net customers” — leaving Comcast with less than Facebook and Netflix — he says about his collection of deals with TWC and Charter. And what would he say to consumers who are fed up with cable’s famously lousy service? Comcast’s “X1 platform is a game changer…” Showtime CEO Matthew Blank, also on the panel with Roberts and Rutledge, didn’t stick to the party line: He joked that “it’s great to be up here with the entire cable industry now.”
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