Comcast has terminated its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, the company said in a statement Friday.
"Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn't agree, we could walk away," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts said in a prepared statement.
Time Warner Cable said Friday the termination agreement was mutual.
"We have always believed that Time Warner Cable is a one-of-a-kind asset," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Marcus. "We are confident we will continue to create significant value for shareholders."
The Wall Street Journal reported that Attorney General Eric Holder had authorized antitrust officials to file a lawsuit against the merger, though those officials didn't make a final decision before Friday.
News of the merger's fate follows reports that Federal Communications Commission staffers recommended the agency issue a "hearing designation order" on the merger, one that would force the two cable companies to make the public interest case for their union before an administrative law judge. Experts say such hearings are not only exceedingly rare, but costly and time-consuming to the businesses involved. Typically, they're a good indication that FCC staffers aren't convinced the merger is in the public interest.
"When you hear those words — administrative law judge referral — it traditionally means the deal is dead," Rich Greenfield, a media and tech analyst at BTIG, told BuzzFeed News.
"This is a long, painful process." he said. "Nobody ever fights an ALJ referral."
Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge and a critic of the merger, echoed Greenfield's opinion. "Nobody really in the last 30 or 40 years has seen this through," he said.
In 2011, AT&T and T-Mobile backed out of their proposed merger after the FCC signaled it would take the deal to a hearing. When the Commission did, in fact, move to bring the EchoStar–DirecTV merger to trial in 2002 over anticompetitive and public interest concerns, the companies abandoned the deal.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Friday the decision is in the best interests of consumers.
"The proposed transaction would have created a company with the most broadband and the video subscribers in the nation alongside the ownership of significant programming interests," he said. "Today, an online video market is emerging that offers new business models and greater consumer choice. The proposed merger would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation, including to the ability of online video providers to reach and serve consumers."