Shortly before the Presidential election last year, AT&T announced that it would spend around $85 billion to merge with Time Warner. A deal that the company now expects to close before the end of 2017, and they also expect that the merger will not need an FCC review. That's pretty interesting, considering the fact that a merger of this type typically does need an FCC review, and possibly some concessions so that there is still a decent amount of competition in the marketplace. AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson was speaking with CNBC this morning about the deal, and stated that he has had two meetings with Trump and his team, and the deal has not surfaced in either meeting.
This is a pretty big deal seeing as Trump had declared he would block this deal, when he was on the campaign trail, prior to the election. However, those that he has put in charge of the FCC are looking to decrease regulation, and really keep the FCC to just regulating the airwaves. So it does make a bit of sense that the FCC may not need to review the merger. However, just because it skips the FCC doesn't mean that it is all said and done. There are still other regulatory arms that will need to review and sign off on the deal.
With this acquisition, AT&T would also be picking up a number of Time Warner's properties. These include HBO, CNN and a few others. This could be a potential issue for customers. Especially if AT&T offers this premium content to their existing customers at a discount or even free. And AT&T has already been favoring their own companies over competitors. With DIRECTV NOW, AT&T customers can watch TV for free on their smartphone, as it doesn't count against their data cap. So it wouldn't be surprising to see AT&T do the same thing with some of Time Warner's properties. AT&T purchasing Time Warner would also mean that they own a good bit of the content that's on their U-verse and DIRECTV networks. It would leave for an interesting situation for customers as well as competitors.