Judge: Gov't evidence "too thin" in AT&T case

Galtero Lara
Junio 13, 2018

AT&T's politically charged takeover of Time Warner was approved by a U.S. judge on Tuesday in a blow to the Trump administration which had fought hard to have the deal scrapped.

"This decision from Judge Leon will have broad ramifications for the tech, telecommunications and media sector for decades to come", said Daniel Ives, the chief strategy officer at GBH Insights.

Regulators will still likely scrutinize similar deals, and there is no guarantee that the district court's approval of AT&T's merger with Time Warner means that other major media acquisitions would be approved, several antitrust attorneys told Reuters.

Leon said the government's case fell short on all counts and warned against seeking to delay the deal with an appeal saying that would cause irreparable harm to the companies.

Leon said the government had "taken its best shot" to oppose the merger.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced the decision Tuesday, bringing the biggest antitrust trial in years to an end. The company will now work to complete the merger by June 20th. Post-merger, AT&T rivals like Charter Communications and Cox, which now pay Time Warner for its channels, would suddenly also become AT&T's customers. "We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner".

"We are disappointed that the court missed an opportunity to rein in the First Amendment-crushing mass media consolidation trend, which puts too much media power in the hands of too few", Manning said in a statement.

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Comcast reportedly is looking to make an offer to purchase 21st Century Fox the day after AT&T's merger comes into play.

The Justice Department had repeatedly suggested the judge consider forcing AT&T to divest some of Time Warner's cable channels. It is expected to appeal and ask for a stay - a delay that could stop the deal from closing for four to six months while an appellate court ponders a decision, legal experts said.

The government's case hinged on an economic model produced by Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, who predicted an annual price increase to consumers of at least $285 million.

"Judge OKs AT&T merger with Time Warner, rejecting government argument it would hurt pay-TV consumers, competition".

In a recent court filing, Redstone said her long-term plan was to create a combined company, which would unite media assets including CBS" broadcast networks, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and then sell it. Halford, from OCC added, "All I know is that this will be a blockbuster summer for media mergers!'

The DOJ argued that buying Time Warner and its stable of popular TV programming would give AT&T too much control over programming and distribution.

AT&T, which has invested heavily in a streaming video service called DirecTV Now, is free to bulk up its original programming with Time Warner content.

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