AT&T wins. Comcast shares slump on decision

Brunilde Fioravanti
Giugno 13, 2018

Judge Richard Leon rejected those arguments, approving the deal without conditions.

The DOJ filed suit against AT&T in November of previous year, claiming that if the deal were allowed to go through, Time Warner's Turner television networks could be withheld from competing TV carriers or licensed at such a high cost as to give AT&T (who also owns DirecTV) an unfair advantage over its competitors. The decision means the telecom giant will now control highly-sought after programming - including Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter movie franchise, and CNN - as well as the infrastructure that delivers that content to tens of millions of living rooms televisions and smartphones.

The Justice Department could appeal the ruling, although it said only that it is considering its options.

The AT&T lawsuit is the first time in decades that a government challenge of a "vertical merger" - involving two companies that do not directly compete - has gone to court.

It's been years in the making, but the mammoth merger of AT&T and Time Warner Inc.is officially going to happen. Comcast, for example, would like to outbid the Walt Disney Co. for some of 21st Century Fox's assets, but has held off until the trial ended.

"Together AT&T and Time Warner concluded that both companies could stop "chasing tail" lights and catch up with the competition", the judge said.

In his notes for explaining the deal rationale to his board, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson wrote, as Leon quotes on page 89 of his decision: "How can you advantage your own distribution (TV, BB, wireless) without harming TW position as a wide distributor of content to other SVOD, cable networks, and broadcast networks". Delrahim, Trump's appointment as the antitrust chief at the Justice Department, is widely well-regarded. With that added revenue, it could eventually lower the cost of its subscription services, the company argues.

Comcast readying new bid for 20th Century Fox film and TV assets
Court Approves AT&T’s Merger With Time Warner

"We are disappointed with the Court's decision today", a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement.

President Donald Trump, who has advocated for the blocking of the deal, has criticized CNN for its coverage of his election campaign and his administration. "AT&T is merging with Time Warner not to thwart online viewing, but to advance it, by enabling AT&T to introduce new video products better suited to mobile viewing", the company argued in papers filed with Leon this spring.

"The government's evidence is too thin a reed for this court to find that AT&T has, in that well worn turn of phrase, either the "incentive" or the "ability" to withhold HBO promotional rights in order to 'lessen competition substantially'".

The trial was closely watched as the fate of the deal could have had ripple effects on future deals and everyone from media giants to streaming service providers.

The deal cost AT&T's top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, his job in May after it became public that AT&T had paid Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen $600,000 for advice on winning approval.

The Department of Justice, still licking its wounds from losing the bid to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, is mulling an appeal, FOX Business has learned.

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