It was reported in May that Comcast was preparing a $60 billion all-cash bid for 21st Century Fox media assets that Disney already agreed to buy for $52 billion in stock. The deals come at a time when traditional media and internet service providers see online giants like Google and Facebook as the key competitive threat. The ruling comes one day after the repeal of net neutrality, meaning that AT&T now has more freedom to prioritize the delivery of select content on its network. Comcast has already made an offer for Sky, the United Kingdom satellite TV business. AT&T's chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, said the hiring had been "a big mistake". The "drop dead" deadline for completing the merger is June 21.
Leon ruled that AT&T can buy all of Time Warner without any conditions, such as selling certain assets or agreeing to refrain from raising prices. A line formed outside the court several hours before Judge Leon was scheduled to issue his decision. 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. Meanwhile, both Comcast and 21st Century Fox also are vying for United Kingdom satellite operator Sky. Vertical mergers, such as Amazon's takeover of Whole Foods and drugstore chain CVS's purchase of health insurer Aetna, have become increasingly popular.
Justice Department attorneys argued in a six-week trial in a windowless Washington courtroom earlier this year that AT&T could use its control over popular Time Warner cable channels such HBO, TNT and CNN to slow the growth of popular streaming services and hike bills for cable-TV customers. Looming in the background of the deal has been Trump's long-running feud with Time Warner's CNN, which he has often derided as "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news". The government had opposed the deal, claiming that it would limit competition and raise costs for consumers.
It is about tectonic shifts in the media and technology industries.
Amid the shifting media sands is a backdrop of intense competition in the wireless business. Plenty more details are sure to be revealed in the coming days and we'll be sure to keep you up to date as new information is made available.
The merging companies will have to prove to antitrust authorities that the deal is good for consumers.
AT&T-Time Warner is considered a vertical merger, as AT&T is a content distributor and Time Warner is a content creator. He said the company needed to take a giant leap into the content business. 'We're chasing their tail lights, ' Petrocelli said. During Donald Trump's campaign for President in 2016, he said he would block the deal as President "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".
Presidential politics clouded the merger from nearly the moment it was announced.
For its part, the department was not thrilled with the outcome. Sessions did not comply with the request.
Leon said the government's theory that the merger would give the combined company too much leverage in programming negotiations was "plagued by inconsistencies" and contradicted by the Justice Department's own evidence.
The mega-merger was a high-stakes bet by AT&T Inc. on combining a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels it to consumers.
AT&T, meanwhile, saw its share price fall 2.1 percent, to $33.63, after the ruling was revealed.