Nearly two years after announcing a proposal to merge with Time Warner, AT&T has finally been given the go-ahead by a Federal judge to complete the $85.4 billion deal that will see the two conglomerates become one. Today saw U.S. District Judge Richard Leon hand down his decision after a six-week trial to determine if the merger would pose antitrust issues. The ruling counts as a big loss for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, which argued that the merger would end up costing consumers in the form of higher carriage fees for the new mega company's channels like TBS, TNT and CNN. AT&T and Time Warner had decided to close the deal on June 21, 2018, and the companies can now do so unimpeded.
The judge's ruling is leading many analysts to say that this decision will clear the way for many other major consolidations in the media, especially between content creators and distribution channels. This ruling could have clear implications for possible bids, like Comcast's consideration of a rival bid for many 21st Century Fox assets, in an effort to take those properties away from Disney. According to Variety, Verizon is on the lookout for a major content creator, and there has been much speculation that a large tech company would be looking to buy a Hollywood studio sooner rather than later.
This type of merger, known as a vertical merger because each company involved is at separate stages of the production process for a specific finished product (like a movie or TV show, in these cases), now has more of a seal of approval on it than ever before, with many believing these types of deals within the cable, media and telecommunications industries will now start to happen at a much higher rate.
Apparently, the Justice Department can appeal the decision, but applying for an appeal alone won't actually halt the merger. To do that (pending appeal), the Justice Department would have to prove that there's a good chance they could win their case, and prove that the merger moving forward would cause irreversible harm.
The merger, which was announced on October 22, 2016, quickly became a point of interest during the presidential campaign. In November 2017, the Antitrust Division filed suit, claiming the merger would drive prices up for competitors that wanted to broadcast Turner networks, and saying that the new company would also withhold competitors ability to use HBO (which is owned by Time Warner) as a promotional device in order to draw in subscribers.
Well, with the merger now able to go through as planned in just a few days, we'll certainly start to see the ramifications of the deal before too much time has passed.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend and we'll keep you up to date on all the latest merger news. For more on what you can catch on the small screen in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our summer premiere guide.