The AT&T-Time Warner merger is a go, court rules

The media world just got a little smaller.

A US judge has approved AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition (paywall) of Time Warner, dismissing antitrust fears and clearing the way for further industry consolidation.

The US Department of Justice—the nation’s antitrust authority—sued to block the deal late last year, arguing that Time Warner’s media brands like HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN would give AT&T outsized power, hurt competition, and lead to higher prices for consumers.

AT&T, in turn, said it needs Time Warner to have a fighting chance against tech giants like Google and Facebook. It argued a combined AT&T-Time Warner could act like an internet company and use consumer data to offer more targeted advertising, and adapt more easily to compete with Netflix and Amazon.

US district judge Richard Leon sided with AT&T, approving the deal without conditions. He issued his decision in a closed-door room with reporters, and reportedly urged the government not to seek a stay.

The companies have until June 21 to close the merger, per their previously set deadline.

Shares of AT&T spiked immediately after the announcement and are now down about 2% in after-hours trading. Time Warner shares are up about 5% at $100.91.

The ruling paves the way for a string of other media deals. Comcast is now expected to rival Disney’s $52 billion agreement to buy 21st Century Fox.


Read next: The fate of the world’s media is being decided right now

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