Altice Lays Out Service Promises for Cablevision Buy

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By Tim McElgunn

March 8 — Altice NV detailed commitments it will agree to if New York state regulators allow it to acquire Cablevision Systems, Inc. in a March 8 filing at the state's Public Service Commission.

Altice pledged to invest in plant upgrades and improvements that will make 300 Mbps broadband service available to all Cablevision customers. It will also offer a service for eligible low-income households that will provide 30 Mbps service for $14.99 per month.

New York regulatory approval is critical to Altice completing its purchase of Long Island-based Cablevision. Any conditions the PSC imposes could impact the company's ability to achieve the savings it has promised investors. The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are also reviewing the deal. If it falls apart, Altice will have to reassess its ambitions for the U.S. cable market, where its acquisition of St. Louis, Missouri-based Suddenlink Communications leaves it in seventh place overall among cable operators.

Technology Investment

Altice said it will introduce “an all-in-one home center, which will allow subscribers to integrate cable video services, over-the-top video, online storage services, home media, and WiFi and Ethernet connected devices into a single hub, expanding customer choice and easing the ability to enjoy non-cable services on TVs, tablets, and game consoles.” The company also promised an improved user interface that will integrate access to multiple services along with advanced navigation and recommendation tools.

Altice said it would commit to continued investment in Cablevision’s Wi-Fi network that, it said, “can be used to extend the reach of fixed broadband offerings, support new mobility services, and lead to consumer cost savings in connection with mobile broadband service usage.”

The company emphasized the level of competition in the New York City metropolitan area, saying that “Verizon is franchised in 142 communities in Cablevision's service area.”

No Promises on Jobs

The company did not directly address regulator and public advocate concerns over potential job losses following the proposed merger, insisting that competitive pressures make it critical to retain “the same workforce flexibility available to its technology sector and network provider rivals.”

Altice countered a PSC staff-proposed 50-50 split of “synergy savings”—savings to be derived from lower operating and capital costs, including from job cuts—between investment and returns to shareholders. The company said that it “should instead adopt a 15/85 share target for the Transaction, and certainly no more than the 25/75 sharing target Staff has suggested could be considered.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com