The Department of Justice initially refused to approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner if the media giant didn’t agree to sell off either DirecTV or Turner. AT&T refused, saying that the nature of television and streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix make it impossible for a company like AT&T to have a monopoly and different revenue streams are necessary to remain competitive in the TV landscape.
Last month a judge ruled in favor of AT&T saying that in the new landscape of television the deal would not violate any antitrust laws. Hadas Gold of CNN.com says Judge Richard Leon, who presided over the case made it clear that his opinion is his ruling is pretty clear.
Using unusually strong language, Leon discouraged the Justice Department from asking him to put the ruling on hold while it considers an appeal. He said such a stay would be “manifestly unjust” because it would have the effect of killing the acquisition. The Justice Department did not seek a stay, and the deal closed.
Leon, though, also warned against an appeal, writing in his decision “[A]s my 170-plus page opinion makes clear — I do not believe that the Government has a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal.”
That isn’t stopping the DOJ though. It is appealing the ruling to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three judge panel will hear arguments from both sides.
AT&T issued this statement.
AT&T general counsel responds to DOJ appealing merger with Time Warner: pic.twitter.com/uaLU42d9NL
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) July 12, 2018
The appeal could be fast tracked, not only because of the implications on this case, but because of what it would mean for Disney’s impending acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.
From a sports standpoint, it remains to be seen what effects this might have. Time Warner’s streaming service B/R Live, it might be safe to assume, has entered a bidding war with Disney over the rights to the Italian soccer league Serie A assuming an influx of cash from a much more lucrative company like AT&T was on the way. It may also limit Turner’s ability to swing a deal with the NFL, which Turner has indicated it wants to do at the earliest opportunity.