WASHINGTON D.C. (CelebrityAccess) — A Federal Judge on Tuesday ruled that AT&T could complete its proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, including its various media properties such as HBO and DC Entertainment.
In handing down his ruling, federal judge Richard Leon said that the U.S. Justice Department, whose anti-trust unit brought the case, failed to provide reasonable proof that the merger would have a negative impact on consumers or competition.
“We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government’s lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner,” said David McAtee, the general counsel of AT&T. “We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative.”
In a statement released following the ruling, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, said he was “disappointed” by the decision but stopped short of saying he intended to appeal.
“We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner,” he said in the statement. “We will closely review the court’s opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers.”
The merger, which combines one of the largest communications network providers with one of the largest content provider conglomerates has the potential to reshape the media landscape. The deal will bring content such as the HBO hit WestWorld, the blockbuster Harry Potter movie franchise and cable news network CNN under AT&T’s control and follows on the heels of the company’s acquisition of DirecTV in a $67 billion deal in 2015.
The approval of the merger is likely to presage the completion similar mega-deals, including the completion of a proposed merger between Comcast and Fox, who are themselves seeking to acquire Disney, yet another major content company. The decision will also likely squeeze other content channels such as YouTube and Netflix, as they compete in the content delivery sphere in the age of post net neutrality.
“I think for business, in general, it’s going to be seen as a green light for mergers. I think you’ll see a lot of people using it as an opportunity to push mergers they may have been thinking about,” said Ed Black, president of the Computers and Communications Industry Association, a trade group in Washington, D.C., told the New York Times after news of the judge’s ruling broke.