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5 Million People To Cut Their Cable Off

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Cheaper alternatives to cable like Netflix, Redbox, free Wifi..the TV business is having its worst year ever.

Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.

Media stock analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently noted, “The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever.” All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal — but it includes internet subscribers, too.

Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn’t.

In all, about 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year.

Time Warner Cable, for instance, lost 306,000 TV subscribers in Q3, and 24,000 broadband web subscribers, too.

And Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, told Wall Street analysts he was “surprised” that 1.3 million of his 5.5 million customers don’t want TV — just broadband internet. “Our broadband-only growth has been greater than I thought it would be,” he said.

Comcast and Charter are reportedly going after a joint purchase of Time Warner Cable.

Comcast may be interested in merging with Time Warner Cable. The two sides aren’t in active discussions, according to CNBC, but Comcast is reportedly seeking advice on potential antitrust concerns and other regulatory obstacles that could pop up if the company decides to pursue a fellow cable provider. CNBC also says that if Time Warner Cable moves forward with a sale, Comcast would be its preferred buyer. According to “people familiar with the matter,” Comcast has been considering merging with TWC for quite some time, but only now is looking for guidance on what hurdles the companies could face if a deal is reached.

But Comcast may have some competition: The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Charter Communications is also preparing to make an offer to buy the company. Regardless of who decides to make a grab for Time Warner Cable, any deal is likely to be met with stiff scrutiny from federal regulators. Comcast is familiar with how that can go, as the company was forced to make concessions to successfully complete its buyout of NBCUniversal.

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