AT&T wins court approval to buy Time Warner for $85B

Judge to Rule on AT&T-Time Warner Deal

As the owner of Time Warner, AT&T would be able to set the price that other cable or satellite companies must pay for a large quantity of TV programming.

In its suit against AT&T, the Department of Justice alleges the merger would "greatly harm American consumers" through "higher monthly bills and fewer of the new, emerging innovative options that consumers are beginning to enjoy", Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, said when announcing the suit a year ago. The $85.4 billion merger was first put forth in October 2016, but a deal like this was met with intense scrutiny from regulators, as it will have major implications on the media landscape moving forward. For more, RT America's Manila Chan is joined by former Florida Democratic Party Chair Mitch Ceasar and GOP Strategist Ken Del Vecchio.

Judge Richard Leon scheduled a hearing for 4:00 pm (1900 GMT) to announce his decision, which may come around the same time as a written opinion following a seven-week bench trial.

The industry is now turning its eyes to another potential megamerger - the fight between Comcast and Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox. CNBC is reporting that Comcast will try to buy Twenty-First Century Fox if AT&T buys Time Warner. The DOJ filed suit in November, claiming that the Time Warner deal would eventually result in higher TV prices for millions of consumers. Online companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix have emerged as alternatives to the cable industry both distributing and creating their own content.

"Now, more than ever, we need reinvigorated regulatory oversight of the video marketplace - such as program access and program carriage rules - to ensure that smaller distributors and programmers, and consumers, aren't harmed by an increasingly uncompetitive market", the advocacy group Public Knowledge said in a statement.

AT&T is known to most Americans as a cell phone service provider while Time Warner owns giant media brands such as the HBO movie channel, the Warner Brothers movie studio and CNN.

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"If what you see is a pattern where friends of the president get their deals approved and his enemies are challenged, it's problematic", Levin said. In other words: Calculated using expected revenue, AT&T is paying $36 billion for the portion of Time Warner's business that comes from AT&T's competitors.

Fox's stock jumped 7% in after-hours trading, and Disney's fell modestly amid predictions that Comcast, emboldened by the AT&T ruling, would make an aggressive bid for most of Fox's assets.

The ruling clears the way for the telecom giant to restart its merger engine, and could prompt a jumbo bond issue sized up to US$18bn, two investors said. But now the government seems to have grown concerned about the massive reach of new telecommunications and tech companies that warehouse personal information on users and sell targeted advertisements, Mehra said.

AT&T argued that its proposed acquisition of Time Warner is a defensive move against the increasing threat of internet TV services like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. AT&T lawyers initially sought email correspondence between Trump's White House and the Justice Department, but Leon declared that any communications were not relevant to the trial, and AT&T relented.

Updated 2:18 pm PT: This story was updated with comments from AT&T and the Justice Department.

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