AT&T wants to buy Time Warner to 'weaponize' its content, government says at start of antitrust trial

The biggest US antitrust case of this century kicked into high gear as a government lawyer warned that AT&T wants to buy media giant Time Warner to "weaponize" its must-have content — a move that would raise prices for consumers and hinder innovation. AT&T's added leverage over pay-TV competitors to withhold content from some of the most valuable assets in entertainment — including HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and Warner Bros., Hollywood's largest TV and film studio — would cause prices to rise by more than $400 million a year for Americans, said Justice Department lawyer Craig Conrath. AT&T also would be able to use the leverage to hinder the growth of online competitors, such as Google Inc.'s YouTube TV and Dish Network's Sling TV, Conrath said as the antitrust showdown began, courtroom after two days of sparring over evidence.

AT&T's lead attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, strongly disputed what he called "preposterous" government allegations in his opening arguments, saying consumer prices would go down and not up because of cost efficiencies and higher advertising revenue generated by combining the telecommunications giant's subscriber information with new data about viewers of Time Warner programming. Online rivals such as Google and Amazon have "radically transformed" the media industry, and AT&T is trying to bulk up to compete, Petrocelli said. The Justice Department's case doesn't recognize that, he said.


AT&T wants to buy Time Warner to 'weaponize' its content, government says at start of antitrust trial AT&T, Justice Department launch opening shots in merger trial (The Hill) DOJ and AT&T Clash Over Impact on Consumers of a Time Warner Deal (WSJ)