Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Charter Cable Close to Bankruptcy

Cable operator, Charter Communications is inching closer to bankruptcy. The fourth largest cable company missed their debt payment and the buzz is that a bankruptcy filing is imminent. The next question is even more uncertain, is this a reorganization under Chapter 11 or a liquidation under Chapter 7. What would the other cable companies prefer to occur; that is, which is easier for them to pick up their pieces. Clearly Time Warner and Comcast are most likely to go after their systems, with Cablevision possibly looking at their Connecticut property.

The cable industry has grown up very quickly, from many operators covering the US to just a handful managing larger and larger regions. And where cable was once the only real game to many networks and clearer signals, the rise of satellite and telco into the competitive fray, and the push from IP programming through broadband bringing more competition, cable is at a new crossroads. With one less big player in the hunt, the need for more cost efficiencies by cable operators will be even more important. Charter may soon be gone, but what hurt them could be hurting the other cable players, too.