AT&T Jacks Up TV Prices Post Merger After Repeatedly Claiming That Wouldn't Happen

from the price-hikes-for-everyone dept

You may be shocked to learn this, but nearly all of the promises AT&T made in the lead up to its $86 billion merger with Time Warner wound up not being true.

The company's promise that the deal wouldn't result in price hikes for consumers? False. The company's promise the deal wouldn't result in higher prices for competitors needing access to essential AT&T content like HBO? False. AT&T's promise they wouldn't hide Time Warner content behind exclusivity paywalls? False. The idea that the merger would somehow create more jobs at the company? False.

This was all laid out to US District Judge Richard Leon during the trial (twice), who ignored all of the warnings and rubber stamped the deal without a single condition. At absolutely no point did Leon in his absurd ruling recognize the threat of AT&T owning both a monopoly over broadband and a massive media empire in charge of content needed by competitors. And when lawyers and economists warned him that kind of power would only lead to higher rates, he almost happily ignored them.

Fast forward a year or so and AT&T is already imposing another significant hike on its TV customers (both traditional and streaming). New and existing users are seeing price hikes upwards of $10 to $15 per month. It's the second price hike in less than a year. And despite being the broadcaster in this equation, AT&T blamed the hikes on broadcasters:

"In the email to customers that one customer shared with Ars, AT&T blamed the price increase on rising programming costs. Of course, AT&T itself is partly responsible for rising programming costs because it now owns Time Warner. AT&T told a federal judge last year that its acquisition of Time Warner would "enable the merged company to reduce prices," but it's been the opposite in reality."

Funny, that. One of the reason for the hikes is AT&T needs to pay down debt from its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV ($67 billion) and the 2018 acquisition of Time Warner ($86 billion). AT&T thought it could simply just merge its way to video advertising market dominance. But after hiking prices to recoup this debt, consumers are fleeing AT&T's services at an alarming rate. While AT&T is an incredible political tactician, it's just another example of how the government-pampered monopoly can't help but do a face plant any time bare-knuckled competition is required.

The saga again points to a US regulatory and legal system that has effectively given up on consumer protection or enforcing antitrust law, and the end result couldn't be more obvious (or so you'd think).

Filed Under: competition, consumer welfare, doj, fcc, fees, merger, prices, promises, tv
Companies: at&t


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Richard Bennett, 24 Oct 2019 @ 6:42am

    Up yours, Bodey McBodeface!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CodeMonkey (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:04am

    AT&T getting rape-y with their prices...

    AT&T spokesman: "You seriously didn't think that WE were going to pay the $86 billion dollars for the merger, did you???? That's what CUSTOMERS are for!!!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:21am

      Re: AT&T getting rape-y with their prices...

      Technically the customers are supposed to pay for it, but AT&T are also supposed to provide a better and cheaper service due to the "synergy effects" of acquiring DirectTV and TW but they did the opposite.

      Funnily enough, AT&T still manages to pay dividends to stock-holders. Wonder where that money comes from...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:40am

    Lies ... it's what's for breakfast.
    Apparently it has become quite fashionable to not even try to cover up your transgressions anymore. It's almost as if there were a competition to see who could be the most overtly corrupt ass in the entire world. I think donny is winning at the moment.
    Do they worry about their credibility anymore?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      Why should they worry? They have too much money to give a shit and are basically immune to public opinion. Monopolies, regulatory capture and huge piles of money give you the freedom to do as you please without consequence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        Well - for one, it's not sustainable. Many things will begin to collapse, including the volunteer army. They really do not want to start up the draft again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:55am

    no sympathy for customers who believed this crap about no increases and time for those in Congress who keep taking bribes from ALL/ANY of the telecoms/broadband/phone/tv companies to be told their fortunes. if you dont stop backing these lying, cheating fuckers and taking 'campaign contributions etc' from them, you're out at next election!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    rkhalloran (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 8:00am

    Typ. AT&T marketing

    After The Breakup, it was said by many that AT&T wouldn't know how to sell a cure for cancer. Too many of the execs are still of the old-school monopoly mindset and assume "lock-in loyalty" on the part of their customers. You'd think 30+ years later with landline service nearly dead, mobile customers jumping between carriers based on who provides the best deal this month, and cord-cutting hitting the inflection point that they might actually try competing on service and quality. Naaah, let's squeeze the suckers to pay for thicker gold-plating on those exec's parachutes...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Whoever, 24 Oct 2019 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Typ. AT&T marketing

      After The Breakup, it was said by many that AT&T wouldn't know how to sell a cure for cancer.

      Today's AT&T is only tangentially related to the pre-breakup AT&T.

      Today's AT&T is really Southwestern Bell with a new name.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 25 Oct 2019 @ 8:48am

        Re: Re: Typ. AT&T marketing

        Today's AT&T is really Southwestern Bell with a new name.

        And Southwestern Bell is one of the companies that was split off from AT&T in the breakup.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 4:42pm

      Re: Typ. AT&T marketing

      You'd think 30+ years later with landline service nearly dead, mobile customers jumping between carriers based on who provides the best deal this month, and cord-cutting hitting the inflection point that they might actually try competing on service and quality.

      We're talking about people subscribing to bundles of 45 or more channels, a service as obsolescent as the landline (even if it happens to be delivered over the internet); I expect to see similar levels of price-gouging. These people are likely to be elderly, and the elderly are the richest people on average.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    thebosz, 24 Oct 2019 @ 8:24am

    Merger mania

    Makes me wonder why people think the T-Mobile/Sprint merger would be a good thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 8:29am

      Re: Merger mania

      Depends on which "people" you're talking about. The ones who will be losing jobs or facing rate increases probably aren't fans.

      The ones who will be getting stock options and bonuses, or the ones getting campaign contributions? I'll bet they love the idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 9:30am

    Is America great again yet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 10:27am

    The ferryman

    “Rising programming cost”

    Gentlemen I am willing to offer rescue service off the ship for exorbitant prices that match the water levels your company is taking. Limited time only.

    Oh ho ho. Limited time only.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2019 @ 11:59am

    Here at Techdirt, the issue of the merger with both Warner as well as with DirecTV has been pounded into the sand. Anyone who reads the site knew this was coming. I bailed on AT&T last year. Partly over prices, partly over caps, partly over service; all of which are poorly done from the customers side.

    The future AT&T sees is one of increasing prices to pay for this boondoggle. Was another reason I told them when I left, I wasn't going to help pay for something I didn't buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 12:25pm

    Since..

    they are bitching about CD230..
    WHY cant we Sue the piss out of ATT??
    Arnt they responsible for printing this onto the internet??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bichard Rennett, 24 Oct 2019 @ 5:51pm

    Pfft, that's just FREEDOM!
    Now that regulation that kill freedom like Net Neutrality are gone, and the artificial commie restrictions that kept prices artificially low are gone, you're going to see real progress in telecommunications, mostly in the field of buggering customers (if they sign up for a 10 year sodomy plan, well throw in a tiny bit of lube 3 times a year!)

    This is exactly as it should be, and will stop all those nasty developments that have made them all soft and commie and brought back proud American traditions of price gouging, and screwing people over because they can!

    Of course, I can't wait to ignore all the pinko pirate scum's views, on how best to destroy peak profitability of busineses. I mean, if I wanted to hear that kind of crap, I wouldn't have boasted about being the co-inventor of twisted-pantie communication (aka 10doucheT[wat]) for the last 25 years! (as secretary, my note taking of peoples work was of equal importance to those that did the work, that email inventor dude told me so!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2019 @ 1:19am

      Re:

      You can tell this is a parody - because if AT&T offered sodomy plans, the last thing they would do is show it up front. They'd have the sodomy plan bundled with something benign, refuse to give you lube, then charge you for the lube you asked for but never received.

      The Richard Bennett-style defense is spot-on, though, except that he's not nearly this polite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 25 Oct 2019 @ 7:06am

      Re:

      This gets a lol vote for "twisted panty communication" alone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2019 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      "(aka 10doucheT[wat])"

      LMAO

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 24 Oct 2019 @ 8:41pm

    Because obviously, big corporations cannot keep any promises to do anything that their shareholders or Wall Street do not want them to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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