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AT&T chief Stephenson: CNN sale not a factor in DOJ/Time Warner talks

12 November 2017, 02:11 | Darnell Patrick

AT&T chief Stephenson: CNN sale not a factor in DOJ/Time Warner talks

You should absolutely be worried about the AT&T Time Warner deal

According to some news reports, the Justice Department told AT&T it must sell CNN's parent unit or DirecTV, its pay-TV company, for the deal to go through.

The Justice Department wants AT&T to divest either Turner Broadcasting, which operates HBO and cable channel CNN, or its DirecTV satellite business to gain approval of the Time Warner deal, say reports. "Period", Stephenson said at The New York Times' Dealbook Conference.

Stephenson said he had his first meeting with Makan Delrahim, who head's the DOJ's antitrust division, on Monday.

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AT&T (T) likely would win a court battle vs. the Department of Justice over its acquisition of media giant Time Warner, but don't expect a prolonged fight, analysts say.

Stephenson closed the door on selling CNN. If the DOJ sues AT&T to block the merger, "our preference would be sooner is better, and we're prepared to litigate now", he said. It's bad enough to think that AT&T might end up controlling CNN and HLN and charge its competitors more for the privilege of carrying them, but when we throw HBO and Warner Bros. into the mix, the potential for AT&T to become underhanded with on demand content becomes all the greater. "What gets discussed inside that [negotiating] room is highly privileged and I can not go there", he said.

"I miss the old horizontal mergers", Stephenson said with a rueful grin. The concern is that AT&T may force its competitors to pay higher prices to broadcast Time Warner's content, which the consumer would presumably feel one way or another. AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.5 billion in October 2016. Stephenson said AT&T would ask for an expedited hearing in order to move quickly through the court system.



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