June 28, 2013
Billionaire John Malone is exploring scenarios for how Charter Communications Inc. could acquire Time Warner Cable Inc., even after his initial overtures were rebuffed, according to people familiar with the discussions. Malone's Liberty Media Corp., which owns 27 percent of Charter, is working on how to structure an offer with enough cash to win over Time Warner Cable investors, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. Time Warner Cable isn't interested in a deal and doesn't think Liberty and Charter can come up with an offer that's attractive, according to people familiar with management's thinking.
Acquiring Time Warner Cable would be a challenge for Charter, a much-smaller company whose debt exceeds its $12.5 billion market capitalization. Time Warner Cable, valued at $30.8 billion, also would demand a hefty premium, said Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. in New York. "Charter would have much more to gain from a merger than Time Warner Cable," Kraft said in a note to clients. Liberty Media is considering options such as borrowing against its own balance sheet or Time Warner Cable's assets to raise the cash needed for an offer, two people said. Comcast Corp. used a similar strategy to complete its purchase of NBC Universal from General Electric Co. in 2011.
Malone said this month at Liberty Media's shareholder meeting that he saw Charter becoming "a horizontal acquisition machine." "The whole name of the game in the cable business is scale," he said. Despite the resistance of Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable company, Liberty and Charter would like to get a friendly deal done in the coming months, one person said. In addition, Charter is considering acquiring Cablevision Systems Corp., the fifth-largest provider, two other people said. Denver Post
Aereo, a startup that is trying to challenge cable and satellite TV packages with an $8-a-month offering over the Internet, says it will expand to Chicago in September. The service started in New York last year and expanded to Boston and Atlanta this spring. Service in the Chicago area will begin Sept. 13 and will come with several Chicago-area broadcast stations plus Bloomberg TV. Eligibility is limited to 16 counties in Illinois and Indiana. Aereo converts television signals into computer data and sends them over the Internet to subscribers' computers and mobile devices. Subscribers can watch channels live or record them with an Internet-based digital video recorder. Viewers can pause and rewind live television. Broadcasters have sued Aereo for copyright infringement, but Aereo has won key court rulings. Associated Press
It's no fun calling a company's customer service number, only to hear an automated voice rattle off a long list of options-- press "one" for sales, press "two" for repairs, press "three" for anger management. Now Zappix Inc. of Burlington is slashing through the audio clutter, with a smartphone app that can automatically choose the correct option. The Zappix app, available at no charge for Apple Inc.'s iPhone or smartphones running Google Inc.'s Android operating system, is pre-programmed with the correct dialing codes for hundreds of major businesses and government agencies.
For example, a user who subscribes to cable TV provider Comcast Corp. can touch the company name, to see a menu of customer service options. They're exactly the same options you'd hear when dialing the company, but Zappix lets you race through them by touching the screen. When you get to the option you want, Zappix dials the number, then works its way through the audio menu based on your choices. Zappix can also take users directly to the Comcast website, if that's the fastest way to resolve a problem.
Gal Steinberg, Zappix' vice president of marketing, said that his company wants to work closely with consumer-oriented businesses to make sure that their automated phone software communicates accurately with the Zappix app. Steinberg also said that Zappix plans to someday earn a profit by selling premium services to businesses. For instance, a utility company might do a deal to connect Zappix to its billing system, so that a Zappix user could pay his light or gas bill directly through the app. Or Zappix could automatically notify a cable TV subscriber about a service outage in the neighborhood. And of course, Zappix could earn money by displaying advertisements on the smartphone's screen while the user's waiting on hold. Of course, that could be just as annoying as an automated phone menu. Boston Globe
Rookie state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, ran for office on a promise of working with Republicans when possible. Sims on Tuesday put that bipartisan spirit in action, throwing a party at the house he rents in Harrisburg. Sims invited all members and staff from the state House, Democrats and Republicans. Dress code: jeans and T-shirts. Drinks: beer and wine. Pictures: don't you dare. The invitation included a "booing rule" - anyone taking a party picture would be booed. "Sounds funny but it's VERY effective," the invitation said. It worked, Sims said. Nobody took pictures at the party, which had a good bipartisan turnout. Why the rule? Sims said the political atmosphere in Harrisburg can be so poisonous that he didn't want anyone to worry about having their picture taken with a member of an opposing party. Philadelphia Daily News
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