A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros.
AT&T isn’t just a “pay-TV provider” — it’s an ISP and cellular provider as well, and they run a subscription media streaming business too. This judge has now given them permission to purchase the world’s sixth-largest media company. And it gets worse:
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon did not impose conditions on the merger’s approval. He also urged the government not to seek a stay when issuing his decision in a closed-door room with reporters.
For comparison, when Comcast bought a majority share of NBC Universal, the FCC and the Department of Justice both placed restrictions on the acquisition. Comcast’s FCC restrictions expired in January; the DOJ conditions will be lifted at the beginning September. Meanwhile, according to Alex Sherman of CNBC, Comcast is set to announce their offer for 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets tomorrow. And don’t forget that Disney is planning to launch its own streaming service next year.
I don’t see how reducing competition through vertical integration of production and distribution of entertainment assets with few legal restrictions is supposed to be beneficial to the American consumer.