At first sight it seems the Time Warner-Comcast alliance has won the battle to acquire bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications.

The duo got the green light for their joint $17.6 billion (€13.46bn; £9.17bn) cash and stock offer late Wednesday, granted after-hours in a New York courtroom. It sets the stage for further consolidation of the US cable industry.

Or does it?

Consumer groups and rivals alike are girding their loins to fight the deal - both at the Federal Communications Commission and before antitrust officials. Although details of the expected carve-up of Adelphia's assets have yet to be made public, there is a rising tide of opposition.

"From what we know, we have a concern," says Bill Wiltshire, regulatory counsel at the USA's largest satellite operator DirecTV. Rival Echostar, number two in the satellite firmament, is likewise worried.

"Both Time Warner and Comcast own programming that is not always made available to satellite companies at fair prices," says spokesman Steve Caulk. "Cable companies have also exploited a loophole to circumvent program access rules. The victims are American consumers. We are opposed to any acquisition that does not address or could intensify those problems."

Nor is the reaction yet known of rival bidder Cablevision, the New York-based cable company which trumped the TW-Comcast offer with its most recent all-cash bid of $17.1bn [WAMN: 20-Apr-05].

Although the latter offer is notionally higher, only $12.5bn is in cash. The remainder is in stock, a moveable feast at the best of times; and in terms of media shares, this is not the best of times.

Many onlookers believe the battle is not yet won. Indeed some think it has only just started.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff