The $85.4 billion deal between AT&T and Time Warner has received the go-ahead from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on June 12. The no-conditions ruling in AT&T’s favor ends a six-week antitrust trial in which U.S. regulators argued against the merger, stating it would give AT&T an unfair advantage against rival cable companies that rely on content created by Time Warner.
The decision puts an end to a nearly 20-month long ordeal that has been opposed by Donald Trump, critics of media consolidation and various consumer groups. Following the decision, shares of Time Warner jumped roughly 5 percent in extended training, while shares of AT&T dropped as much as 2 percent.
Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, network of the hit shows Game of Thrones, Westworld and Veep; and Warner Brothers, owner of the Harry Potter, Batman and Lego franchises.
After AT&T announced their intention to merge with Time Warner, some other media companies started merging as well. Discovery Communications bought Scripps Network Interactive, owner of Food Network and HGTV. Sinclair Broadcast Group is working on purchasing Tribune Media, owner of some prominent local news stations throughout the country. Viacom has explored merging with CBS, and Sony Pictures and Lionsgate might be up for grabs as well.
This deal has many implications for the media and entertainment industry. It opens doors for more vertical mergers, a merger between two companies who operate at different stages of the production process for a specific finished product. Other recent vertical mergers include Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and CVS’s takeover of health insurer Aetna.
The ruling also paves the way for Comcast to challenge Disney’s offer for majority ownership of Twenty-First Century Fox. Comcast plans to offer a $60 billion all-cash deal for the company, compared to Disney’s $52 billion all-stock deal. Twenty-First Century Fox’s assets include Fox Entertainment Group, owner of 20th Century Fox film studio; the Fox television network; and the Fox News channel; in addition to other assets.
Trump’s repeal of Obama era net neutrality regulations is all an effort for him to remake CNN in his own image. He wants to devalue CNN’s newsworthiness so that when the Time Warner and AT&T merger goes through, they will have the lowest viewership relatively speaking in many years and that MSNBC is now competitive with them and even FOXNews in the 11 p.m. hour.