Justice Department Challenges AT&T/Directv’s Acquisition of Time Warner
The United States Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T/DirecTV’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner. The $108 billion acquisition would substantially lessen competition, resulting in higher prices and less innovation for millions of Americans. The combination of AT&T/DirecTV’s vast video distribution infrastructure and Time Warner’s popular television programming would be one of the largest mergers in American history. Time Warner’s network offerings include TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, HBO and Cinemax, and its programming includes Game of Thrones, NCAA’s March Madness, and substantial numbers of MLB and NBA regular season and playoff games. According to the complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the combined company would use its control over Time Warner’s valuable and highly popular networks to hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for the right to distribute those networks. The combined company would also use its increased power to slow the industry’s transition to new and exciting video distribution models that provide greater choice for consumers, resulting in fewer innovative offerings and higher bills for American families. As AT&T itself has expressly acknowledged, distributors with control over popular programming “have the incentive and ability to use . . . that control as a weapon to hinder competition.” And, as DirecTV itself has explained, such vertically integrated programmers “can much more credibly threaten to withhold programming from rival [distributors]” and can “use such threats to demand higher prices and more favorable terms.” This merger would create just such a vertically integrated programmer and cause precisely such harms to competition.
Justice Department Challenges AT&T/Directv’s Acquisition of Time Warner DoJ (read the complaint)