The Department of Justice slapped AT&T with an antitrust lawsuit in hopes of stopping their acquisition of Time Warner. The trial that was the direct result of that lawsuit wrapped up last month and yesterday it has been revealed AT&T walked away from it the victor.
US District Judge Richard Leon ruled yesterday that AT&T can complete its massive $85 billion purchase of Time Warner. The merger has been a subject of scrutiny since it was first announced by AT&T back in 2016 with DOJ arguing the merging of the two companies would threaten competition. AT&T counter-argued that the deal won’t produce anticompetitive effects and that the DOJ could not back up their argument. The judge subsequently agreed with AT&T.
Judge Leon reportedly did not impose any conditions on the deal as well, and this could have serious implications when it comes to future media mergers. Most recently, Comcast whom is mulling putting in a competing bid against Disney’s to purchase 21st Century Fox. T-Mobile and Sprint’s possible merger, CVS buying Aetna both could also benefit from Leon’s ruling.
After the decision came down, US Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said: “We are disappointed with the court’s decision today. 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.”
AT&T’s general counsel David McAtee said in a statement: “We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial of the merits, the court has categorically rejected the government’s lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner.”
However, there is cause for concern, Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports stated:
“Allowing these two giants to merge hands AT&T control of not only the largest distribution platform but some of the most valuable content on television today.”
Also with Net Neutrality now a thing of the past, customers could have to pay higher prices for Cable TV and streaming services, miss out on new innovation from companies and be hampered by fewer options to enjoy their favorite shows.
Time will only tell now, the DOJ is possibly considering a filing appeal but that could prove futile because of Judge Leon’s overwhelming decision. As part of his ruling, Leon wrote that he believed it would be doubtful the government would succeed if they went that route.
AT&T will look to complete the merger by June 20.
Photo: KENA BETANCUR / Getty