Creating 'Massive Media-Telecom Behemoth,' Judge Approves AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Courts To M&A Bankers “Everbody Gets Laid!”

A USA federal judge on Tuesday cleared the mega merger between AT&T and Time Warner in an antitrust case with potential far-reaching implications.

In a ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, Judge Richard Leon said that the DOJ had failed to show how the combined tv and telco giants would substantially harm competition in the USA market. In fact, CNNMoney reported that AT&T-Time Warner's counsel Daniel Petrocelli made the argument that traditional media orgs have already been left behind in the digital revolution.

The lawsuit against AT&T had cast a pall over that activity, as a sign that the Department of Justice, under new Trump appointees, was taking a more hard line stance to mega-deals.

AT&T, a content distributor, first announced a deal in October 2016 that would let it acquire Time Warner, a content creator that counts HBO, Warner Bros. and cable network giant Turner Broadcasting among its biggest assets.

The ruling is a major victory for the Dallas-based telecom giant, which has waited for about 20 months to move forward with the acquisition of the New York-based media and entertainment company.

AT&T, which has invested heavily in a streaming video service called DirecTV Now, is free to bulk up its original programming with Time Warner content.

The U.S. Justice Department is taking AT&T to court.

According to Deadline, CEO Brian Roberts told investors during the company's annual shareholders meeting early Monday morning that Comcast is in the "advanced stages" of preparing a bid for 21st Century Fox - an offer dependent on the ruling in the AT&T-Time Warner anti-trust case, which is expected later today.

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What do you think about AT&T buying Time Warner? Now the judge overseeing the case has ruled that AT&T can merge with Time Warner.

With AT&T and Time Warner joining forces, the two companies claim they'll be able to better compete with the likes of Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and others.

The ruling is expected to unleash more deal-making.

AT&T argued that the merger will help customers without harming AT&T's business rivals, and that the combined company wouldn't have enough market power to raise antitrust concerns.

Still, at least one company, Comcast, the largest USA cable provider, had been waiting for the court decision before making any large M&A moves in media, sources have said.

"Consumers may not notice the difference if this one deal goes through because they are already getting crushed in the marketplace", added Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Captive Audience on the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger. "We will closely review the Court's opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers". Time Warner shares are up about 5% at $100.91.

Time Warner's sale could shape how much U.S. consumers pay for streaming TV and movies. But Leon denied AT&T's request to disclose any communications between the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the merger and between Sessions and the department's antitrust division, keeping such speculation a mystery.

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