The United States Department of Justice still wants AT&T to choose between DIRECTV and Turner if it wants to see its $85.6 billion Time Warner purchase approved, having made the final plea with Judge Richard Leon to support its stance earlier this week. The second largest wireless carrier in the country and the antitrust division of the DOJ have been battling over the matter in the court of law for the past seven weeks, with the federal government being adamant that the consolidation would provide AT&T with too much power in the media industry and allow it to place its distribution rivals at a disadvantage while negotiating licensing deals, thus benefiting its DIRECTV division in a manner that breaks U.S. competition laws.
The Dallas, Texas-based mobile service provider repeatedly dismissed the notion of abusing the content of Time Warner's Turner unit in order to spike the licensing costs of its rivals. Turner owns a number of valuable media properties such as CNN, Cartoon Network, HLN, TNT, Boomerang, TBS, and TruTV. Its parent is also the company behind HBO, Cinemax, and Warner Bros., meaning it controls everything from Game of Thrones to Batman. A DOJ-called expert recently estimated the merger in its current form would raise American TV bills by some $571 million annually, with AT&T claiming that figure isn't grounded in reality and that any such increase would be incremental.
AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall L. Stephenson is presently facing immense pressure to conclude the tie-up after already failing to go through with another major merger seven years ago when the federal government killed the company's $39 billion bid for T-Mobile and forced it to pay a $4 billion breakup fee to the Bellevue-based carrier. That sum is in part what helped T-Mobile mount a major comeback and end up agreeing to a consolidation with Sprint that would place it within striking distance of AT&T and Verizon in terms of subscribers if it's approved. Judge Leon is expected to rule on AT&T's dispute with the DOJ in the coming weeks.