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Comcast-Time Warner merger's effect on Bright House is unclear

Warren Myers, a manager with Comcast, stands Thursday among gear at a Comcast distribution center in Pompano Beach where video, data and voice communications are sent out.
Warren Myers, a manager with Comcast, stands Thursday among gear at a Comcast distribution center in Pompano Beach where video, data and voice communications are sent out.
Published Feb. 14, 2014

Comcast and Time Warner Cable's $45.2 billion mega-merger would combine the nation's two largest cable companies into a media juggernaut.

But it's unclear just what effect the telecommunications behemoth, which would reach one in three American pay-TV households, could have on Tampa Bay's TV sets.

Bright House Networks, Florida's second-biggest cable provider behind Comcast, relies on Time Warner Cable to negotiate programming, channel lineups and content deals.

Messages and emails left with officials for Bright House, which reaches more than 1.8 million homes in Tampa and Orlando, were not returned Thursday.

Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon Communication's FiOS, which spars for market share with Comcast in Sarasota, said he wasn't sure how any cable strategies would shift in the merger.

"We're not sure what to expect," he said.

If it survives a gantlet of federal antitrust regulators, the deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, whose markets don't overlap, would serve 30 million subscribers.

It would also have even more clout and power to negotiate deals and compete with up-and-coming tech rivals like Netflix and Google Fiber.

Bright House, which was born out of a 2002 split between Time Warner Cable and its former partner, Advance Publications, is the dominant cable provider in the Tampa Bay area. It is also the sixth-biggest cable provider in the country, with more than 2.4 million customers across Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and California.

Aside from offering video, high-speed data and voice services, Bright House runs local news channel Bay News 9 and lends its name to Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training stadium in Clearwater.

Tampa Bay is the 14th-largest TV market in the country, with more than 1.8 million TV-owning homes, beating out Minneapolis, Miami, Denver and Orlando, Nielsen data show.

Comcast is already the nation's largest Internet and cable TV provider, with a fifth of the nation's pay-TV market and ownership of NBCUniversal, a movie studio and several cable channels.

Time Warner Cable's markets in New York, the Midwest, Southern California, Texas and the Carolinas serve 15 million customers, including video, business and high-speed data customers through Internet service provider Road Runner.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are not only the nation's biggest cable providers, they're also the most disliked. Both companies were ranked among the worst last year in the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power and Associates' TV and Internet service satisfaction studies.

Bright House and FiOS were both ranked among the highest.

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

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