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Comcast Drops $45B Bid For Time Warner Cable

Will the deal's demise create ripples in the cable industry?
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/ Source: NBC News

Comcast Corp. threw in the towel on its attempt to buy Time Warner Cable amid rising pressure from regulators over the $45.2 billion deal that would have created a media giant.

The deal reflected the massive changes taking place in the cable industry, which are likely to continue despite the merger's failure.

"Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn't agree, we could walk away," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement Friday. "I couldn't be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what's next."

“The companies' decision to abandon this deal is the best outcome for American consumers.”

The Department of Justice said in a statement that it had informed the companies it had significant concerns for consumers about the deal. “The companies' decision to abandon this deal is the best outcome for American consumers,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

That sentiment was echoed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who said in a statement: "The proposed merger would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation, including to the ability of online video providers to reach and serve consumers."

Regulators and critics of the deal, which would have created a company that controlled more than half of the U.S. broadband market and about a third of TV, were concerned it would muffle competition, end up costing consumers more and have too much say over America's online and television content. Comcast already was the largest provider of video and broadband Internet access in the U.S.

Deal hits snag

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported the deal had hit a possible snag after the FCC's staff recommended that agency set up a hearing over Comcast's proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Quoting people familiar with the matter, the newspaper reported that the recommendation would have put the merger in the hands of an administrative law judge, essentially a strong sign that the FCC did not believe the deal was in the public interest.

Roberts told CNBC Friday that he didn't want to speculate about the reasons why regulators soured on the deal, which had been announced with much fanfare in February of 2014. At the time, many investors and analysts thought the deal had a good chance of getting through the regulatory antitrust scrutiny.

The decision, Roberts said "allows us to think again."

The sheer size of the deal had promoted other companies in the industry to think about combining to compete. While it's unclear now whether the deal's demise will change that pressure overall, cable companies are likely to keep joining forces and offering new products in the face of rising competition from online content providers.

Verizon's recent announcement that it was giving its customers some more control over the channels they pay for -- a step toward a la carte pricing -- is an example of that.

Meanwhile, Charter Communications could resume its bid to absorb Time Warner, now that Comcast is out of the picture, analysts said. "Other cable deals that don't involve Comcast might be allowed to go through," former FCC commissioner Rob McDowell told The Associated Press.

Comcast owns NBC Universal, which is the parent company of NBC News and CNBC