The three biggest UK cable operators are expected to meet shortly to discuss exchanging regional franchises, as part of an ongoing consolidation of the country's cable industry, claim sources.
NTL, Telewest Communications and Cable & Wireless are expected to hold talks over franchises in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East. All three companies however, declined to make any firm comment.
?It is well known that cable companies are in talks with each other all the time,? said a spokesperson for Cable & Wireless. ?But we are making no statement on this specific issue."
All three companies have been patchworked together through a series of mergers and acquisitions.
Telewest recently paid #130 million for Birmingham Cable, when it completed its purchase of NTL?s stake in the franchise. Telewest and NTL may now come to a deal on Cable London, which they jointly control.
NTL and Telewest have already agreed that, by the end of September 1999, NTL will name the price for Telewest either to buy its partner's 50 per cent share in Cable London, or sell its own 50 per cent share.
Last month, the UK?s chief television regulator made it easier for two of the three companies to merge and compete with satellite company British Sky Broadcasting, which now dominates the UK pay-TV market.
Further consolidation will come as no surprise, according to analysts. Five years ago there were 24 cable companies in the UK, now the big three dominate. Yet they are still unprofitable, as they have been sinking more into acquisitions and networks than they have made from customers.
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