Blockbuster antitrust trial impact to go beyond AT&T, Time Warner | 6/10/2018 | Staff
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With a judge set to rule in the trial over the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, any decision could have a far-reaching impact on the media and communications sector and the future course of antitrust enforcement.

US District Judge Richard Leon is set to announce his verdict June 12 in the $85 billion merger of wireless and broadband giant AT&T with media-entertainment conglomerate Time Warner.

Case - Heard - Washington - Weeks - Trial

The case, heard in Washington over seven weeks, is the most high-profile antitrust trial since the effort to break up Microsoft in the 1990s.

The outcome may set a benchmark for other tie-ups in the sector and how far antitrust enforcers can go in blocking big mergers.

Trial - Decades - Merger - Companies - Operations

Notably, this is the first trial in decades involving a "vertical" merger of companies that don't have overlapping operations but which operate in the same sector.

"This decision will have an outsized effect because there are so few antitrust trials that challenge vertical mergers," said Michael Carrier, a Rutgers University law professor specializing in antitrust.

AT - T - Companies

"If AT&T wins, it makes it easier for other companies to say they should be able to merge."

AT&T, the largest US pay-TV operator and the second-largest wireless phone carrier, is seeking the deal with Time Warner, owner of premium channel HBO, the Warner Bros studios, Cartoon Network and CNN.

Deal - Tie-ups - Sector—Walt - Disney - Co

The deal comes with other big tie-ups pending in the sector—Walt Disney Co. is seeking to buy film and television operations of rival 21st Century Fox, and media-cable giant Comcast is expected to make a bid for the same assets.

AT&T vs Silicon Valley?

Companies - Rivals - Netflix - Amazon - Silicon

The companies argue they need more scale to compete against fast-growing rivals Netflix and Amazon, and Silicon Valley giants Apple and Google that are pushing into the sector, with the advantages of data gleaned from the online platforms.

The Justice Department sued to block the deal, saying the tie-up...
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