AT&T's trial with the Justice Department wrapped up this week, with a decision due next month. But today, AT&T told a federal judge that it would reject selling off either its DIRECTV or Turner Networks units if the Justice Department wanted it too, for the merger to be approved. AT&T stated that doing so would "destroy" the value of this merger.
Last year, while it was reviewing the merger, the Justice Department had urged AT&T to spin off either its DIRECTV or Turner Networks units as concessions for this merger to go through. Obviously that is not something that AT&T wants to do, as it destroys the value of this merger. Many believe that AT&T may still end up spinning off Turner Networks, or at least some properties within that unit – like CNN or HBO. The Justice Department wanted AT&T to divest these units, because DIRECTV has 20 million users, making it the largest Pay TV service in the country, and with buying Time Warner, AT&T would be picking up a number of networks that are on Pay TV services. Allowing AT&T to use it as a weapon to raise prices, and even cut out its competitors. That's the Justice Department's big issue here and why it has taken AT&T and Time Warner to court to block this merger.
The outcome of this trial between AT&T/Time Warner and the Justice Department will set precedence for other mergers that are coming in the near future – including the just announced T-Mobile and Sprint merger. While the T-Mobile and Sprint merger won't be seeing anti-trust investigations on the level of AT&T and Time Warner, there is still a good chance that it does get blocked. After all, AT&T attempted to buy T-Mobile about seven years ago and the Justice Department got involved and killed the deal. That's very possible to happen again with this merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. And the outlook will depend on what happens with AT&T and