If you're a Cablevision customer, you're in for a surprise: Your pay-TV and Internet company is being bought by a European company that, according to analysts, doesn't just plan to be a big player in the U.S. cable market, but also may have ambitions to become a wireless carrier.

Altice, which is led by the French billionaire Patrick Drahi, has been on a buying spree lately. In May, it purchased the regional U.S. cable company Suddenlink Communications for $9.1 billion. Add in Cablevision's 3.1 million business and residential customers, and what you get is the fourth-largest cable firm in America, Altice said Thursday.

The move comes as cable operators everywhere are searching for new business models. As the traditional cable bundle evolves and more Americans shift to online streaming services, pay-TV is becoming less profitable as a standalone service. That's likely to drive Altice to explore investments in other U.S. industries, said Craig Moffett, an industry analyst at MoffettNathanson.

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"It’s going to be awfully difficult to achieve meaningful scale in cable alone," Moffett said. "You’d have to think they are looking at adjacent industries, particularly wireless, as the next leg of growth."

Cablevision itself has already taken a few steps in this direction. Its nascent Freewheel service allows customers to make cellphone calls from WiFi hotspots. The rest of the industry is eyeing this strategy, too. It wouldn't be a huge leap to imagine Altice pushing this idea forward.

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