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Judge Approves AT&T-Time Warner Deal in Blow to DOJ

M&A

**Editor’s Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting merger and acquisition news from March.**

A judge ruled in favor of AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Tuesday.

Cecilia Kang of the New York Times reports that U.S. District Judge Richard Leone ruled against the Department of Justice’s complaint. The DOJ sued to block the acquisition last November, setting up the antitrust case. The trial lasted six weeks.

Leone’s opinion said that all of the DOJ’s proposed harms, including raised Time Warner prices and “oligopolistic coordination,” did not meet the burden of proof.

There is a chance that the Department of Justice will continue to pursue the case and force AT&T to miss its merger deadline of June 21, but Leone harshly warned the federal government against making any additional motions, calling such a move “manifestly unjust,” according to Reuters.

AT&T’s attempted takeover of Time Warner represents a major shift in strategy for service providers. Companies that provide internet are more and more looking to package in media content of their own. The end of net neutrality has further increased the value proposition for businesses that marry content and connectivity. Service providers such as AT&T and Verizon are looking to control their own media content in order to monetize it.

Time Warner, which is not to be confused with Time Warner Cable, would give AT&T numerous media properties, including HBO, TBS and Warner Bros.

AT&T's Randall Stephenson

AT&T’s Randall Stephenson

“With great content, you can build truly differentiated video services, whether it’s traditional TV, [over the top] or mobile. Our TV, mobile and broadband distribution and direct customer relationships provide unique insights from which we can offer addressable advertising and better tailor content,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO and chairman, said when the carrier announced the transaction in October 2016. “It’s an integrated approach and we believe it’s the model that wins over time.”

Stephenson said at the time that the combination of AT&T and Time Warner will increase the quality and number of choices its customers have with regard to their media content.

“This is a perfect match of two companies with complementary strengths who can bring a fresh approach to how the media and communications industry works for customers, content creators, distributors and advertisers,” Stephenson said. “Premium content always wins. It has been true on the big screen, the TV screen and now it’s proving true on the mobile screen. We’ll have the world’s best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen. A big customer pain point is paying for content once but not being able to access it on any device, anywhere.”

One of the unexpected proponents of the transaction is the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, which praised the move as a boon for jobs and improving AT&T’s standing against non-union tech companies such as Amazon.

CNBC reported Monday that Comcast would make its bid for 21st Century Fox official. That might force Disney to raise its $52 billion offer for Fox.


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