Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. have made audacious moves to become media distribution and content conglomerates, but one of the industry’s most powerful players is skeptical of that approach and doesn’t plan to follow suit: cable tycoon John Malone.
In an interview this week, Malone, a pioneer of the cable industry who owns significant stakes in No. 2 U.S. cable operator Charter Communications CHTR, +3.72% and cable-channel owner Discovery Inc. DISCA, +4.47% , said he doesn’t plan to consolidate his empire into a vertically integrated content and distribution player any time soon.
“Why would I put Discovery together with Charter? Apples and oranges,” Malone said. “If you are just forming a conglomerate by putting everything in the same bucket, it eliminates your flexibility, you’ve got tax problems, regulatory problems and a lot of problems that these companies operating autonomously don’t have.”
Malone, a deal maker guru whose ideas carry weight in the industry, said AT&T T, +0.93% and Comcast CMCSA, +4.64% face a challenge in deriving financial benefits from such deals. He said AT&T would have an easier time reaping benefits because of its national footprint, which would allow it to use Time Warner’s TWX, +0.84% entertainment content, including cable channels like HBO and CNN, to drive revenue growth in its wireless business. Comcast, in contrast, still only operates in some regions of the country. “If I was [Comcast Chief Executive] Brian Roberts, I would probably have a content company and a cable company instead of one company. Maybe I would have done better, maybe not,” he said with a laugh.
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