AT&T Wins Approval for $85.4 Billion Time Warner Deal in Defeat for Justice Dept.

The Trump administration had sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal, arguing that it would lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers.


Comments: 64

  1. The day after Net Neutrality ends, giving AT&T the legal right to deny competitors access to its telecoms customers, a federal court approves the AT&T-Time Warner merger on the grounds that Hulu, amazon, Netflix and others provide ample competition for delivery of content such as Time Warner owns. This makes no sense upon even cursory analysis. How are Netflix, et al. going to sell me *anything* over my AT&T-provided Internet service if AT&T decides not to permit them to do so (or to charge them a large premium to do so)?

    In prior vertical mergers, the merging companies did not have control of a bottleneck essential to reaching customers. Internet service in the US is today at best an oligopoly. Allowing those oligopolists to control the content consumers want while simultaneously allowing them to deny access to competing content is a recipe for higher prices and stagnated innovation. Our nation now seems to exist for the benefit of large corporations, not human beings.

  2. The cable companies are killing AT&T in the Internet access space--AT&T won't dare block content and risk driving more customers into the arms of broadband competitors.

  3. This is not a good thing for America! What we need is a Teddy Roosevelt and some major Trust Busting!

  4. This could be great!! AT&T can block fox news increasing the intelligence of America in one fell swoop.

  5. I will confess that I don't know if this deal will help or hurt consumers.

    But I do believe that DOJ's Antitrust Unit was impermissibly weaponized in support of the President's assault on our free press. The fact that the effort failed ultimately is comforting, but does not allay all of my concerns.

    There is a saying, "The power to prosecute is the power to destroy."

    ATT and Time Warner can handle themselves just fine. But what about you and me, if the prosecutorial decisions in this country are deployed for political purposes?

    I find the pre- and post-appointment opinions by the Chief of the Anti-Trust Unit very damning: as a law professor, it was his view that the government didn't have a legal leg to stand on; and then as an appointee pursuing a case that was legally (advancing a novel legal theory against vertical mergers) and factually (inability to prove harm to consumers) flawed, ostensibly to please his boss.

    This is extremely disturbing stuff.

  6. Somehow the government didn't do a very good job at fighting this merger. Perhaps they didn't hire the right essential consultants to get the facts on the case?

  7. I think the judges are the problem.

  8. The US is turning into a corporate fascist state. Or the former USSR. Where you can only buy a Lada, fly Aeroflot and shop at Gumm Dept. store.

  9. This is a defeat for the American people

  10. The America I thought I new is committing suicide.

  11. Two of the worst companies in terms of service quality, ridiculous fees, and customer service are now joined together. I actually choked on my morning coffee when the local news anchor said prices may actually come down because of this merger.

    I will continue to cling to my Google Fiber and mourn those who no longer have a choice.

  12. I think you are mistaking Time Warner for Time Warner Cable. They are not related. Time Warner doesn't charge you any "fees" unless you buy one of their programs.

  13. This is big news, perhaps the biggest of the week, month, or even year.

    This merger is another spike in the heart of Capitalism -- which demands COMPETITIVE MARKETS (not free markets, and not monopolistic markets). The goal of Capitalism is provide the widest array of the best products and services at the best prices (i.e. value). This is undermined by mega-consolidations and monopolistic markets.

    We are staring down a hole that looks more and more like corporate feudalism**.

    **
    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/2/5/1630420/-Where-We-Are-Headed-C...

  14. I call it corporate fascism.

  15. Now let's see some federal judges start ruling on the Justice Department's crimes against humanity like separating children from parents on the southern border and putting them in cages on military bases, or Sessions' unconstitutional hardening of our asylum laws. Or do we have to wait for our government to be put on trial by the International Court of Justice at the Hague?

  16. Our ineffective congress is being replaced by Corporate America.The forces behind corporate America are the new government, controlling the masses with their money, technology
    and ownership of mass media.

  17. After all these years Marx was right. Capitalism inevitably becomes monopoly capitalism. The rest of his prediction was "then comes the revolution" or words to that affect.

  18. I remember back in the late sixties, early seventies a when there was the break up of 'Ma Bell' because of anti-trust laws
    or something like that.
    Now we are back to playing that scenario again on many levels.
    Will this merger with Tim-Warner and AT&T bring about a reduction in jobs because of overlaps, higher prices because where else you're gonna go?
    I see the same thing happening with healthcare mergers.
    If everything is the same, I hope that a person who hasn't paid a pre-existing bill won't be denied care because of inability to pay.
    I notice that when one goes to the doctor/hospital now, the first thing they ask after you sign your name is proof of insurance and whether that insurance is an HMO or PPO.
    And although at the present time if you arrive because of an emergency, the only thing hospitals are required to do is stabilize one.
    I pain me that people don't notice these small things and don't look at the big picture and what they might mean 20 years into the future.
    Already they are once again saying that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is running out of money and giving the reason why.
    When Pres Obama put into place the AHCA, there was a reason for doing so.
    He was projecting into the future.
    Too bad that even though the plan might have had its faults, it was something, but people rejected it because many felt the plan cost them money.
    What have they got now?
    With these various mergers, they are going to cost a lot.

  19. For clairification, the actual breakup of bell telephone occurred in 1982.

  20. In the early 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt gained a reputation as a "trust buster," dismantling trusts which he considered did not serve the public interest. I believe the merger between AT&T and Time Warner is one that serves the public interest. Thank you.

  21. In what way? Shareholders of the two companies make up a very small sliver of the public, and they are the only ones who have obviously been benefitted.

    The best argument made for this merger is that it will streamline content distribution, but the most obvious caveat is that the streamlining will be limited to only one outlet for that content. Everyone else can either bring their business to AT&T or kiss their hassle-free access to “Game of Thrones” goodbye. There are no guardrails left to stop that.

    But if you have some insight into why this would be in the general public’s best interest, please share. I would love to be wrong about this and have something be less than apocalypticly bad for once.

  22. AT&T's other deals (DirecTV, Cricket Wireless) haven't reduced competitive choice, at least in my opinion, and I don't think the company will gain much leverage here either.

  23. While it wasn't specifically addressed in the judge's ruling, you could read between the lines that Trump's involvement was definitely considered. Trump simply went too far in trying to influence the Justice Department's decision to intervene. He got what he had coming.
    See: RevolutionOfReason.com
    TheRogueRevolutionist.com

  24. This is no blow to nor defeat for the Justice Department. It is the American people who will pay for this "steal" between AT & T. and Time Warner.

    And since President Trump is hiding his personal and family income tax returns and business records from the American people, he will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  25. Being objective t was Trump that tried to stop the deal with the DOJ.

  26. 5-10 years ago, the Government might have had an argument in preventing the merger of these two companies. But now, with more and more broadband capacity, and more and more content streaming options available, the court saw this lawsuit for what it was, Donald Trump sticking it to CNN.

  27. >>> "But now, with more and more broadband capacity, and more and more content streaming options available. . ."

    How many (streaming-quality) broadband providers are available at your house? How many do you think are available to the average consumer?

    The answer, for the vast majority of Americans: not nearly enough choices to create real competition.

  28. Consider that Net Neutrality is over and now ISPs will have the ability to slow-down or block what users can receive or see. Hulu. Amazon. Netflix. Etc.

    Now consider that a company which owns a significant internet delivery system (AT&T) now will own a company which has a significant content system (Time Warner).

    But you have Comcast that is a competitor of AT&T. Comcast can slow-down or disrupt your internet movie streaming.

    AT&T can slow-down or disrupt your Netflix or Amazon movie streaming but beautifully deliver Time Warner content.

    Something we will need to watch; pun intended.

  29. ...so if two companies each own ISPs and content providers, you will need two to pay two ISPs to see the content of both; previously, with net neutrality, only one ISP was needed. How does this help the consumer? Was the judge blind to the most obvious implication of the abandonment of net neutrality?

    The situation is entirely different from a truck manufacturer owning a wheel factory. Wheels from one supplier can substitute for wheels from another. Not so for TV shows.

  30. Winthrop, you hit on an important question regarding the judge’s knowledge or lack thereof.

    The American judiciary - state and federal - is incapable of seeing the long term future of digital media and internet access. If Judge Leon is anything like other judges I’ve seen in action (or, frankly, or geriatric legislators) he thought about this entire question in terms of television channels being viewed on a screen in someone’s home. Their view of media consumption is at least 20 years out of date because that is when they themselves stopped paying attention.

    I have no idea how we can fix this for the time being. We’d like to think judges can be educated on any topic if they are given good enough legal briefs or have a real wunderkind of a clerk, but that notion is easily rebutted by anyone who’s tried to explain YouTube to their grandparents.

  31. I was listening to this story on WBZ radio news where they quoted AT&T saying that there was no evidence that the merger would be anti-competitive or increase prices.

    If I had been asked I could have provided people's exhibit 1 - my DirecTV bills before AT&T bought DirecTV and after.

    The steady price increases.
    The diminution of features in the service.

  32. Then leave the service. A place like a Boston has a lot of options in media services.

  33. Just one more brick in the wall. This country is rapidly breaking apart the foundation on which it was founded. Name a freedom that we are not destroying?

  34. I can think of a couple:

    1. The right to bears arms.
    2. The freedom to take as much as you can from as many as you can without reason or consequence.

  35. Good news that the government case was dismissed. If a steel company buys a railroad to improve integration, does that change competition among steel-makers? Not in the making of steel itself. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was intended to prevent monopolies in the supply of goods or services from forming. For example Standard Oil of Ohio controlling 90% of refining in 1890. But this case does not give AT&t "monopoly" power over the "manufacture" of television shows. Such products are entirely works of intellectual effort and cannot be close controlled.

  36. This merger involved monopolistic concerns regarding the media. This is not just an integration of companies in non-competing businesses. This is further consolidation of the corporate media and the resulting blatant fake news that is generated. Your analogy to railroads and steel is not applicable in regards to media company consolidation. How could you miss that?

  37. The net neutrality repeal which was supported by the GOP may have been in haste.
    Also by trying to block this deal, the GOP AG has indicated that they are not a free market advocate, but prefer oversight when large M&A happens..

  38. This ruling coupled with the end of Net Neutrality will result only in the following: Higher prices, less choices and blatant censorship. I love AT&T's claim that this will reduce costs to consumers. I used to have AT&T for my cell provider and even though I had "unlimited everything" the bill went up each and every month (for reasons AT&T couldn't explain). This is a horrible decision and it will cost all of us - a lot of money and choice!

  39. One more indication that what we are witnessing is the rise of the superstructure of the United Corporate States of America-We are no longer citizens, we are only consumers.

  40. Trump's role in this is an impeachable offense--abuse of power. And the utter failure of Trump-ordered DOJ prosecution of the deal exposed Trump's infantile fit of pique at CNN that drove this fiasco.

    We must curtail Trump if we want to prevent debacles like this. Throw out the GOP in November!

  41. Corporate tyranny is alive and well in this country.
    The merging of state and business is I believe called Fascism.
    Welcome to the USSA.

  42. Yeah, looked it up in the dictionary. That is what the word means.

  43. We're rapidly sliding toward a media Soylent Green.

  44. We’ve been there for years.

  45. Mergers of large, powerful corporations are rarely beneficial to workers and consumers. They reduce the power of the little people and enhance the power of the affluent elites atop the corporations, those on the boards of directors and those holding a substantial amount of company stocks. Let’s pray that this wisdom is wrong and workers in the new company receive huge salary increases and media consumers enjoy reduced prices. What’s even more alarming to me is the increasing corporatization of our fourth estate, the media. Most of our major news organizations are owned by huge corporate conglomerates. This has led to the trivialization of hard news and a significant loss of journalistic courage. This is the last thing America needs right now as she reels from the capture of all of her democratic institutions by the wealthy elites who run these types of large corporations. America desperately needs an uncompromised press.

  46. the first sentence of this article should have included the fact that judge richard leon was "appointed to the bench by george w. bush".

    unfortunately, the judge's opinion is selective and "pre-determined"--a "republican" opinion (despite trump's antitrust division's involvement). it will harm the public interest if allowed to stand.

    judge leon's "warning" to the doj not to seek a stay is alarming and highly inappropriate--trump-like, in fact.

    we should hope that the plaintiff will appeal to the d.c. circuit, and that the appeal will be supported by a number of states.

  47. The DOJ's job was hard enough without needing to also defend against a MOUNTAIN of evidence indicating that Trump (who has also made his desires to utterly dominate the DOJ's actions well known) wishes to punish CNN for its negative news coverage of his administration. Whatever pure legal argument they might have had was tainted, to at least some degree, but the stench of Trump's bad faith.

    Normally, the government enjoys a presumption of good faith, but Trump squanders that. An otherwise constitutional (if shameful) immigration or national security policy becomes more complicated when the entire world has witnessed Trump's unapologetic bigotry. Or there's the case of Sgt. Bergdhal, in which the court wound up needing to consider Trump's public calls for the defendant's execution and how to mitigate the resulting appearance of impartiality in the proceedings. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Amazon finds itself being regulated, the DOJ would be forced to rebut the notion that Trump is exacting a PERSONAL vengeance on Bezos. Or, for a non-Trump example, see how SCOTUS discussed possible bias in Colorado's potential bias against a certain baker (even though it did not say the law itself was per se unconstitutional).

    The president's words and tone reflect upon the entire country and ESPECIALLY his office. That we willingly (as a nation) allow him to represent us is a form of tacit approval. Popular vote or not, Trump is our shame and responsibility to correct.

  48. AT&T will now have the ability to bundle free HBO with their phone and cable packages while raising fees to competitors for all their programming. Huge competitive advantage as prices which will be will rise for competitors passed on to their customers. How does that benefit the consumer who is not an AT&T customer?

  49. I am no lawyer or an economist who can analyze a complex merger like this.

    But I worked 45 years in an industry that has thrived - no actually survived because of vertical integration - at the same time benefiting American consumers.

    That's the oil patch.

    Owning exploration, production, refining, transporting , marketing and selling petroleum products under one umbrella has been a resounding success for America. You can add even secondary products like plastics and chemicals.

    Given topsy turvy pricing over which these companies have little control - they have thrived, prospered and provided many pensioners secure income via dividends. At the same time, securing American consumers to a steady supply of fuel.

    A few months ago, the NYT carried an analysis of which companies have added most value to shareholders over generations. ExxonMobil topped the list by a wide margin.

    So, the judge is absolutely right that "vertical integration" is not always harmful.

  50. Except for the small issue of climate change and Exxon’s knowledge of such going back to the 70’s. Vertical integration blended with cognitive capture equals monopoly. What’s good for shareholders isn’t always good for society.

  51. Exxon Mobil will be paying hundreds of millions in global warming lawsuits.

  52. RE: "pricing over which these companies have little control"

    Wait, I thought that they owning the exploration, production, refining, transporting , marketing and selling petroleum products under one umbrella. Isn't that the very definition of being able to control prices?

    If you pay to do exploration, extract the oil, refine it, and ship it, and sell it where does it price get out of your hand?

    Oh, the mysterious "market". How convenient to have a scapegoat.

    Sure, a top to bottom company allows for efficiencies, but as we have seen the efficiency benefits go to the company, not their customers.

  53. Very good week for AT&T. Abolish Net neutrality and approve merger! I guess all that money to Michael Cohen was not for naught

    Hopefully T can celebrate for a few minutes and halt the never ending bone crushing, soul breaking layoffs for a few months.

  54. A negotiation of this magnitude is being approved just in the same week that net neutrality is overturned. Honestly, I do not know what lies ahead. I hope the consumer wins.

  55. A negotiation of this magnitude is being approved just in the same week that net neutrality is overturned. Honestly, I do not know what lies ahead. I hope the consumer wins.

  56. I use AT&T for my cell carrier. Greed has triumphed as it always does in this country. Of course rates for EVERYTHING are going to go up. It has been this way since before the beginning and it will of course continue to be this way...

  57. This article mentions these deals are typically approved because the companies are not competing in the same industries.

    This article is fake news because it is trying to misinform on that key point. AT&T and Time Warner are both absolutely competing in the same media business, which is the key point. This decision is a further consolidation of media companies and the basis for increased fake news, just like the New York Times already is. Very disappointing. Nowadays, I do not ever listen to ANY of the mainstream media news services. Things will only get worse.

  58. It seems to me that more and more people are dumping their cable tv subscriptions in favor of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. So I see this ATT acquisition as a way to make their internet service more attractive to potential customers. Free HBO is a big carrot to dangle under the noses of new subscribers. Because isn't providing internet access what this is all about? Without the net neutrality rules ATT, Comcast and the other internet service providers will be able to charge streaming providers like Netflix fees for faster access. They will turn the internet into a toll road and in the end the viewers will, of course, be the big losers as they will end up picking up the tab. Then it will be up to consumers to decide what they are willing to pay for the services they want.

  59. Our vindictive president look a fool again.

  60. I can’t support anything that lessens competition and increases control by a growing Goliath corporation. What could possibly compete against this and how will a voice of dissent from within survive?

  61. They could still settle for approval with conditions pending an appeal.

  62. When I was young, many moons ago, there was something we called "the phone company".

    Lovingly referred to as Ma Bell, it was all I knew or needed to know. Our family first had a party line. For you kids out there, that's something like a mini-Facebook. Customers, parties of two, four or more, shared one number. If you picked up the receiver and someone was talking you put it back in its cradle and waited till they were done.

    The Bell system was named the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. Funny he would have the name Bell. A progressive, Al Bell's system changed genders, was feminized, and became Ma.

    Ma Bell had many divisions across the country. Ours was New York Bell Telephone. Big as it was, the Bell system was part of the larger American Telephone and Telegraph. Yep, we had telegraphs before telephones. Messages were sent and delivered in code, developed by a guy named Morse. It was called Western Union. All phones were made by another division, Western Electric. And get this, no one owned a phone. They were rented from Ma Bell and guaranteed forever. Ma did all the work, repairs and replacements.

    It was an enormous monopoly. And because of that, it had to be regulated by the government, of the people, by the people and for the people.

    I now see US returning to those days of yesteryear. What saddens me is, this time, a government of the people have been left out, disconnected, with no dial tone, no voice, to address our grievances.

    DD
    Manhattan

  63. What in the WORLD HAPPENED to our anti-trust laws???

  64. reply to southern, WA
    What in the world happened to civility, to emoluments clause, to standards against nepotism, to elected officials who can read and attend to more than 3 minutes of conversation. Do I need to go on?