AT&T will now have a major foothold in the media industry. However, now that the AT&T deal has been approved by a federal judge, there is precedent for such a deal and Comcast believes it won't be blocked. It's already purchased satellite TV provider DirecTV for almost $49 billion. AT&T asked the court to focus on the former.
A vertical merger is when two companies who provide different or complementary offerings join forces, giving consumers access to a more comprehensive set of services, at a lower price, while still generating profits.
"We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner", said David McAtee, the general counsel of AT&T. The Justice Department sued previous year to stop the merger.
"The conventional wisdom is that the government had a steep hill to climb bringing the first vertical-merger case", in over 40 years, Eric Mahr, a former director of litigation at the Department of Justice, told Business Insider.
This ruling will likely trigger other media merger attempts, like Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox. The Department of Justice, with the support of President Donald Trump, opposed the merger, arguing that the combined companies would be too powerful and reduce competition. To survive the great unbundling, AT&T needs a content package strong enough to gain it a share of the "over-the-top" media market.
AT&T would use its leverage over the must-have shows, in particular HBO's Game of Thrones or National Basketball Association games on TNT, to charge Comcast or Verizon more than it would charge itself for distributing Time Warner channels, giving itself a competitive advantage, the government claimed.
It is worth remembering that the Justice Department is reviewing the T-Mobile/Sprint combination, and the Justice Department did not approve AT&T's purchase of Time Warner.
Amid the shifting media sands is a backdrop of intense competition in the wireless business.
The merging companies will have to prove to antitrust authorities that the deal is good for consumers. AT&T's chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, said the hiring had been "a big mistake".
Now that the merger has been given the go ahead, AT&T will add Time Warner's content to its existing paid TV subscription. Instead, he said the companies were frustrated that the resolution took 18 months, but were relieved that the fight was finally over.
The decision comes despite criticism from Trump, a frequent detractor of Time Warner's CNN and its coverage. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had vowed to block the proposed merger, "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few". In fact, the judge even warned the Justice Department away from further meddling. Sessions did not comply with the request.
The merger, including debt, would be the fourth largest deal ever attempted in the global telecom, media and entertainment space, according to Thomson Reuters data.
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