That didn't take long.
Charter Communications' decision to publicly reveal its offer price for Time Warner Cable on Monday afternoon was unequivocally lambasted a couple of hours later by TWC CEO Rob Marcus.
"They chose to come out with another lowball offer," Marcus told USA TODAY in an interview, referring to Charter's offer of about $132.50 a share. That would make the deal worth about $61 billion, including TWC's debt.
As TWC's board unanimously rejected the offer, Marcus laid out the terms for a looming bidding war in the fast-changing industry. He said any competitor wishing to take over his company, the nation's second-largest cable company, will have to pay at least $160 a share, including $100 in cash. "That's what it is going to take to get a deal done with us," he said. "We weren't for sale. We're confident in our standalone operating plan."
The maneuvering comes at a challenging time for the cable industry, when many analysts think consolidation is on the horizon.
Pay-TV service providers are eyeing each other as changes in technology and consumer behavior threaten to disrupt what has been a reliably profitable, cash-rich business.
With the emergence of Netflix and other video options online, more consumers are considering ditching their cable accounts. And the cost of licensing video content and carrying the content of TV stations grows unabated.
TWC's self-valuation is almost certain to trigger much hand-wringing over an acquisition that will likely take place -- and not necessarily by Charter, the nation's fourth-largest cable operator -- and put the entire industry into play. Comcast has had talks with TWC. Cox Communications may also be interested.
The pay-TV industry lost 113,000 subscribers during the third quarter, estimates research firm Moffett Nathanson. That was largely due to the fact that Time Warner Cable, which refused to carry CBS at that time in a fight over retransmission fees, lost more than 300,000 customers.
But by enlarging their subscriber base, cable companies can boost their leverage in negotiations with content providers and theoretically use cost savings to introduce new products and services that may convince customers to stick around.
Of course, there are added benefits to removing a competitor in the process, entering new markets and absorbing its profitable accounts. "It's still one of the most profitable businesses around," said Dan Rayburn, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Don't expect any merger-related cost savings to flow down to customers, Rayburn said. "They're raising prices every year."
"There is so much talk about 'there are other choices for content,' but nothing works like cable," Rayburn said. "It always turns on when you turn it on."