US media regulators are proposing a significant relaxation of cable ownership rules.

Federal Communications Commission staff have reportedly issued a draft recommendation suggesting that the maximum share of pay-TV households a cable company can serve be raised from the current 30% to 45%.

That could prompt further consolidation in the industry. The largest cable firm at the moment is the recently merged AT&T Broadband and Comcast, which serves 28% of cable and satellite homes.

However, the draft also argues that the limit should be flexible, allowing the FCC to lower the cap as far as 30% if a merger were to pose a serious threat to competition. For example, a lower limit might be applied if the merged firms owned a lot of their own programming (thereby reducing their need to carry rival content) or if they had an unhealthy dominance over one particular region.

The recommendation may herald similar compromises between relaxation of the rules and recognition of competition concerns when the FCC reviews other media ownership regulations next year.

Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff