Google, YouTube May Become Involved In AT&T-DOJ Legal Clash

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Google and its subsidiary YouTube may soon become involved in the legal clash between the United States Department of Justice and AT&T over the latter's proposed purchase of Time Warner worth in excess of $85 billion. The trial which officially started on Monday already saw Judge Richard Leon suggest an unnamed Google executive may end up having to testify on the matter, with CNN reporting the person in question was previously deposed by the DOJ and revealed details that may help it argue the tie-up between AT&T and Time Warner has serious antitrust implications even though it doesn't directly remove any competition from the market.

Earlier this month, YouTube added a wide variety of new channels to its cord-cutting offering YouTube TV, including CNN, TNT, and TBS, all of which are owned by Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System. While the Internet TV service initially launched without Turner's programming in early 2017, it ended up including the company's channels due to pressure from consumers and rivals who did the same. The DOJ reportedly believes the episode illustrates how invaluable Turner's programming truly is and how it would provide AT&T with an unfair advantage over other content distributors, allowing the Dallas, Texas-based telecom giant to increase the licensing prices of such content and consequently spike the average TV bill in the country as such costs would most likely be passed on to consumers, much like they have been in YouTube's case.

AT&T previously argued it wouldn't make any moves to endanger the currently omnipresent availability of Time Warner's content, claiming that doing so would devalue the assets that are meant to be part of the largest acquisition in its history, consequently suggesting such a decision wouldn't make sense from a business perspective. Should the DOJ pursue the YouTube TV angle during the trial, it's likely to highlight the fact that YouTube raised its monthly subscription prices after adding Turner's programming to its lineup earlier this month; while the service originally started at $35 per month, it now does so at $40, though consumers who already signed up for it before the hike won't see their subscription fees raised. The trial between AT&T and the DOJ is expected to be concluded by late April.

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