Multiple reports confirm the Department of Justice is now appealing a federal judge’s approval of the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner. You may recall this story, and why it matters to fans of genre shows, from when the deal was approved last month.
CNBC reports that court documents were filed Thursday, with AT&T General Counsel David McAtee saying the company was surprised by the appeal. A federal judge had ruled in June that the blockbuster deal was legal and decided that it would impose no conditions on the merger. However, the DoJ said at the time that the deal would make the pay-TV market "less competitive and less innovative."
It has long been known that the changes incurred by the merger could affect channels like HBO and shows such as Game of Thrones. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson previously expressed an interest last year to repackage shows in new ways (i.e. cutting a version of the fantasy epic down to 20-minute episodes for mobile viewers), which is arguably a worrying sign of what could be 'round the corner if the merger does go ahead.
After the initial announcement of the merger in 2016, AT&T has stressed that buying Time Warner would help the company compete against streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes previously testified that the company knows "how many people are watching” their networks, "but we don’t know their names. Our direct competitors do. …. They know all sorts of things that we don’t.”
The DoJ previously attempted to block a merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corporation, in a deal said to be worth around $45.2 billion. However, Comcast withdrew its proposal in 2015.
The proposed deal is similar to Disney's plan to buy most of 21st Century Fox's film and TV library to round out their content collection, which has had many genre fans wondering if this would trigger the beginning of a Disney-Fox crossover in terms of cinematic worlds colliding. CNN Money recently reported that Disney would own 40 percent of the box office if its deal comes through.
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