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DOJ Approves Charter’s Time Warner Cable Takeover

Charter, which still needs the FCC’s OK, would be prohibited from restricting online-video companies’ access to content

The Justice Department conditionally approved Charter’s takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks on Monday, crimping the cable giant from moves that could harm online video companies’ access to content.

The deal still needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission, but the Department of Justice said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would circulate an order on Monday seeking approval of the deal from the five-member commission with conditions.

With such restrictions, the deals — which the DOJ valued at $78 billion to take over Time Warner Cable and $10.4 billion to acquire Bright House — could embolden Charter to force programmers into terms that limit how much their content is distributed online, the department said.

It claimed Time Warner Cable has been “an industry leader” in seeking limitations.

Last year, Comcast’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable, which would have joined the No. 1 and 2 cable companies in the country, respectively, collapsed when the FCC and the Justice Department indicated they would fight the deal.

Monday, the DOJ said it would also work with the FCC to closely monitor Charter’s compliance with the conditions.

“Charter will not have the power to choke off this important source of disruptive competition and deny consumers the benefits of innovation and new services,” said Renata B. Hesse, head of the Antitrust Division at the DOJ.

Charter said in a statement it was pleased with the progress toward approval. “The conditions that will be imposed ensure Charter’s current consumer-friendly and pro-broadband business practices will be maintained,” it said, adding that it was confident the new company “will be a leading competitor in the broadband and video markets.”

Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus said in a blog post that the company is “pleased to reach this critical step in the regulatory review,” adding that he is optimistic that the transaction will be finalized soon.