$89 Billion AT&T, Time Warner Merger Approval Looking Likely Despite Trump Pledge To Block Deal

from the merge-ALL-the-things dept

Needless to say, consumer advocates and smaller competitors aren’t too keen on AT&T’s $89 billion plan to acquire Time Warner. They argue that AT&T’s long history of unethical behavior, empty promises, and anti-competitive shenanigans make it extremely likely the company will use its greater size and leverage to ill effect. They worry that AT&T will make it harder for competitors to license content necessary to compete with AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming service, and arbitrary usage caps and other tricks like zero rating to similarly put competitors at a disadvantage.

Traditionally, these kinds of vertical integration deals aren’t blocked because it’s harder to clearly prove potential antitrust harm, even if AT&T has a thirty-year documented history of all manner of fraudulent behavior. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised that this was a deal his administration simply would not allow, given the “concentration of power” the deal would deliver:

“In an example of the power structure I?m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN — a deal we will not approve in my administration because it?s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

Trump, of course, said a lot of things on the campaign trail, including promising to break up Comcast’s already-completed 2011 acquisition of NBC, something Trump couldn’t have done even if he wanted to. And while some thought that Trump’s disdain for Time Warner-owned CNN would throw a wrench in the deal works, there’s no indication that’s going to happen. AT&T has already streamlined its chances for the deal by selling any assets that would have triggered an FCC review, and Trump subsequently appointed a DOJ antitrust boss on record stating he has no problem with the deal.

The fact that Trump’s FCC has become a rubber stamp for every shitty idea coming out of AT&T’s, Verizon’s and Comcsast’s collective heads should also likely clue people into which direction deal approval was leaning.

So not too surprisingly, media reports on the progress of the merger talks indicate AT&T’s conversations with antitrust officials have shifted from whether the deal will be approved to finalizing what, if any conditions will be affixed to the deal:

“The early-stage discussions suggest that government lawyers have nearly finished their months-long look at how AT&T, the biggest pay-TV distributor, would reshape the media landscape with its bid for the owner of CNN and HBO — and shows that the sides have moved on to talking about how they can make the merger work without harming rivals.”

More accurately, they’ve moved on to talking about how they can make it appear that the merger could work without harming rivals, since, as we’ve long documented, the conditions affixed to these kinds of deals are traditionally only theatrical in nature. More often than not, the conditions are proposed by these telecom companies themselves, often requiring that companies do something they’d already planned to do anyway. In AT&T’s case, it usually involves fudging their existing broadband deployment numbers, then promising a new broadband expansion that may or may not actually materialize.

We’ve documented how AT&T in particular is a long-standing professional at making all manner of bullshit promises if their mergers get approved, with regulators never really learning much of anything with hindsight. With Trump being no stranger to flimsy telecom promises of his own (his promise to block this deal being example A), the merger’s going to create a wonderful opportunity for bullshit synergies the likes of which we may never see again.

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Companies: at&t, time warner

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Comments on “$89 Billion AT&T, Time Warner Merger Approval Looking Likely Despite Trump Pledge To Block Deal”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Historically, a lack of regulation is the fastest route to monopolies.”

There is no proof in the statement, but there is proof that regulation made these monopolies certain.


“Every once in a while I sit down with myself asking ‘Once-ler, why are you a Once-ler?’ And I cringe, I don’t smile as I sit there on trial asking ‘Aren’t you ashamed, you old Once-ler? You ought to be locked in a hoosegow, you should! The things that you do are completely un-good.’ Yeah? But if I didn’t do them, then someone else WOULD! That’s a very good point, Mr. Once-ler. Progress is progress, and progress must grow!”

You are a Once-Ler. Since you believe that no regulations are going to create a monopoly (someone else), you support the creation of one through regulation (You).

The logic is bankrupt.

Here is another good one from Kissinger.

“The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government.”

You are more afraid of the unknowns of a free market, therefor you sacrifice your liberty under the idea that Government will would protect you from that unknown. You unwittingly support the very creation that you fear would come into existence. You are helping to create the “Tragedy of the Commons”!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“There is no proof in the statement, but there is proof that regulation made these monopolies certain.”

There’s plenty of evidence proving you are full of bullshit. The US went the hands-off approach regarding ISP regulations by the end of the 90’s. Title II is actually an exception in a non-regulatory history that tries to fix what years of absence of said regulation did. The regulatory capture at the state levels is just that rotten cherry on top of the monopolistic turd where giant telcos bought state laws to greatly rise the costs of entry. As I said before, go play Monopoly and read about its origins.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“There’s plenty of evidence proving you are full of bullshit.”

Just because you are trying to cover me in the bullshit you are spewing does not mean that I am full of it.

The U.S. did not go hands off approach with regulation. They just did not apply those regulations they way you wanted them to be applied. Something you were warned about happening when you asked for regulation but you did not listen.

“Title II is actually an exception in a non-regulatory history that tries to fix what years of absence of said regulation did.”

Again, there was no absence of regulation, it was just not enforced the way you wanted it to be enforced, against as you were warned would happen when you asked for regulation, but you did not listen.

“The regulatory capture at the state levels is just that rotten cherry on top of the monopolistic turd where giant telcos bought state laws to greatly rise the costs of entry.”

Again, I said that this very thing was going to definitely happen when you asked for regulation but… gasp you didn’t listen. I am noticing this trend where you folks are ahem not listening.

“As I said before, go play Monopoly and read about its origins.”

It appears to me that YOU need to read it. I predicted this, and it came true. yes it was easy to predict, but it does amaze me that you guys missed this wailing and blaring boat. But I guess in your “alternate facts” world guessing wrong means to double down on the stupid. You might be a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

You know a little something, but overestimate that knowledge. I understand a great deal more, and mistakenly believe that what comes easy for me to understand is also easy for you to understand, but apparently, I am wrong to assume you can figure this out!

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

An old joke from the 1980s could be adapted for Trump:

Q: What’s the difference between a used car salesman and a computer salesman?
A: The used car salesman at least knows when he’s lying.

Granted, the same goes for a lot of old jokes.

A lawyer, a spy, a mob boss, and a money launderer walk into a bar. The bartender says: “You guys must be here to talk about adoption.”

Anonymous Coward says:

gonna give even worse customer service once this happens, coupled with even less choice of which company you can go to that will screw you for giving the least!!

the politicians before Trump needed stuffing with a pineapple because of the backhanders they were taking, now he’s in charge, they are getting even more/bigger kickbacks, i’ll bet, so there is even less chance of anything happening that actually benefits the people!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: History repeats itself

It is interesting that there are good examples of regulation working, not-working and actually harming people and the more intriguing cases where regulation worked in the past but lost its function and became harmful as technology progressed. The same regulations that created the huge monopoly that was broken up in 84 are the same ones that fostered landlines deployment earlier. It’s the moment the government intervenes, breaks up Bell and forces network owners to allow others to use their structure to provide service that the path to the Internet is laid. Very interesting case that shows how regulations are tools that can be both good, bad or simply useless. And they need to be reviewed and updated from time to time.

Jack says:

And then there was one...

This means over the course of just two years, Raleigh, NC will have gone from a very healthy competition of 3 providers throughout the metropolitan area (plus a little Google Fiber) down to just 1 through mergers. We had AT&T, Time Warner, and Spectrum – which will be one company soon enough.

The news of Google Fiber (even though it’s super limited) and the competition brought in baseline plans of 100mbit, cheap $10ish/mo upgrade to 200mbit, and not all that much more for 300mbit… All of the competing commercials on TV were about the fastest internet speeds and reliability, not phone or TV. So much for that…I guess I should get used to slow internet again or a huge price hike…

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