Monday, October 24, 2016

Will AT&T Time Warner Deal Get Approved

The excitement caused by the latest media merger news of AT&T buying Time Warner has been tempered by concern of "too big".  And that the timing of such news is just two weeks before an important national election.  Politically speaking, both Democrats and Republicans are encouraged to speak out against the merger, as it on the surface looks to limit competition. Economically, it may be harder to press such a claim.

First, both AT&T and Time Warner will point to the Comcast NBC union as precedent to approve their deal.  Second, they will speak to the point that neither business directly competes with the other.  In fact, they each offer to the other a stronger vertical position with AT&T providing distribution through DirecTv, U-Verse, and AT&T Wireless, and Time Warner contributing strictly the content side with production, broadcast, and cable television networks, as well as some web sites.  Neither side currently plays in the other sides' world.  Third, this deal should also pass because Time Warner previously spun off their Time Warner Cable business, a direct competitor to AT&T, as a means to make their content business look more attractive.  Since then, Charter Communication picked up Time Warner Cable and that deal also passed regulatory approval.

So what will the FCC and Justice Department have to say about this merger.  Most likely, a lot with some need to set certain requirements to assure other distribution sites get equal availability to Time Warner content.  But it may be very difficult to outright deny such a deal given the above points.  Could this deal get derailed, possibly: especially if another player seeks to offer a higher priced bid.  Could that still be Apple or Google or maybe even Facebook?  Its been rumored that some of these folks have already kicked the tires a bit.  So stay tuned.