Univision says Comcast buy of TWC could be 'bad for Hispanic audiences'

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:14pm EDT

A Comcast sign is shown in San Francisco, California February 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

A Comcast sign is shown in San Francisco, California February 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Spanish-language television network Univision [UVN.UL] said on Monday that Comcast Corp's plan to buy rival Time Warner Cable Inc could be "bad for Hispanic audiences."

Univision President Randy Falco said on a conference call with media analysts that the proposed $45 billion deal, which would bring together the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. cable providers, was a "cause for concern."

"We are hoping at the very least there is that scrutiny and potentially much tougher restrictions added to the existing consent decree (prompted by a 2011 deal) that will protect Comcast competitors such as Univision who are serving minority communities in particular," said Falco.

Falco stopped short of asking the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission, which are reviewing the deal to ensure it is legal, to block it outright.

On the call, Falco said a primary worry was that Comcast, with its range of movies, television shows and sports shows, would be reluctant to carry networks that it did not own, such as Univision.

In particular, he complained that Comcast balked at distributing Univision's sports network while others, including Time Warner Cable, did carry it.

Falco noted also that if the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal is approved, the new, larger Comcast would serve 91 percent of all Hispanic households and be the top distributor in 19 of the top 20 Hispanic markets.

Also Monday, Comcast announced a deal with Charter Communications Inc as part of Comcast's efforts to win regulatory approval for its mega merger.

If finalized, that agreement would leave Comcast with less than 30 percent of the U.S. residential cable or satellite TV market, a step aimed at pleasing regulators. Charter would have about 6 percent of the pay-TV market, with an eventual shot at climbing to 9 percent. That deal is contingent on Comcast closing the Time Warner Cable acquisition.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Ros Krasny and Phil Berlowitz)

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