Top Turner Exec Grilled Over AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Turner content experiences chief Coleman Breland spent his Monday morning being grilled by the Department of Justice for hours, with the federal regulator calling him to the stand as a hostile witness meant to testify in regards to the agency's ongoing legal battle with AT&T over the wireless carrier's proposed purchase of Time Warner valued at north of $85 billion. Mr. Breland answered a wide variety of questions regarding his previous activities as Turner's chief negotiator for content licensing partnerships with distributors including AT&T. The DOJ remains adamant that AT&T could leverage Turner's assets in order to increase the cost of licensing its content to rival distributors, consequently boosting the average price of a monthly TV bill in the United States given how most companies would likely pass such increased expenses on to their customers.

Mr. Breland's testimony didn't provide any definitive conclusions in regards to which side is likelier to win its argument, with the TV executive acknowledging "blackouts" as a negotiating tactic Turner used in the past but stressing how extremely damaging such moves are. "You're desperate when you're off the air," the official said, having estimated that blocking a major distributor during negotiations could cost Turner in the ballpark of $75 million per month, having based that figure on the company's 2013 blackout of Cable One and 2014 boycott of Dish. Ultimately, Mr. Breland sees such negotiating tactics as something Turner must start phasing out going forward in order to avoid losing money and not a default approach to negotiating with AT&T's distribution rivals. The executive dismissed the possibility of providing favorable conditions to AT&T at the expense of its competitors regardless of who owns the company, having noted that Turner's programming should ideally be on every platform because "you don't know what will be successful."

The DOJ still pressed the official in regards to his track record, with most previous blackouts proving beneficial to Turner in the long term. The subject of YouTube TV came up in particular, with the federal plaintiff noting how Google's service ramped up its prices when it finally adopted Turner's programming several weeks back after spending a year without the firm's content. Mr. Breland said that case is an outliner because YouTube's offer was one of the lowest he has ever seen and also wanted to split Turner's offerings into multiple subscription tiers, with both provisions being deemed unacceptable by the Time Warner-owned company. The trial between AT&T and the DOJ is currently in its third week and is already generating major tensions at Time Warner, according to recent reports. The case is expected to be resolved later this spring but will go through an appellate process if the telecom giant doesn't manage to successfully argue against the federal regulator's antitrust concerns during the first-instance trial.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Head Editor
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]