Judge approves $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner deal

Comcast readying new bid for 20th Century Fox film and TV assets

A USA federal judge on Tuesday cleared the mega merger between AT&T and Time Warner in an antitrust case with potential far-reaching implications.

Levine/NewscomAn ill-advised effort by the Department of Justice to stop AT&T from buying out Time Warner for more than $85 billion was rejected by a federal judge today.

Leon also said it would be harmful for him to put a temporary stay on the merger while the government appeals his decision, if it does so. In fact, CNNMoney reported that AT&T-Time Warner's counsel Daniel Petrocelli made the argument that traditional media orgs have already been left behind in the digital revolution.

"The conventional wisdom is that the government had a steep hill to climb bringing the first vertical-merger case", in over 40 years, Eric Mahr, a former director of litigation at the Department of Justice, told Business Insider.

To see how this could happen, consider that, after the merger, AT&T would have the rights to all of HBO's output, CNN, live National Basketball Association and NCAA broadcasts, and many more desirable Time Warner properties.

Ahead of the ruling, public-interest advocates had expressed deep fears that AT&T's victory would only quicken the rapid consolidation of the media, telecom and tech industries. The approval of AT&T and Time Warner's merger works in Comcast's favor, spurring it to finalize its all-cash offer, which is said to be in the "advanced stages".

Bloomberg via Getty Images AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson exits federal court in April. A clear win for AT&T will embolden Comcast, the US's largest cable company, to top Walt Disney's $52bn bid for 21st Century Fox, the media empire controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family.

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The AT&T-Time Warner merger is in direct response to the success of Netflix.

For the past six weeks, AT&T has been in court over concern of its want to purchase Time Warner for a total of $85 billion. Those two companies started making their own programming in just the last several years.

Media executives increasingly say that content creation and distribution must be married to survive against rising technology companies like Amazon and Netflix. "We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative".

Makan Delrahim, the antitrust chief of the DOJ, said in a statement that he and his staff are "disappointed" but will "closely review the Court's opinion and consider next steps", leaving the door open for an appeal of the ruling.

But the most immediate effect of the deal will be on the already consolidated media market.

Once president, Trump regularly called CNN "fake news" and posted on Twitter in July 2017 a doctored video of him beating up a supposed CNN journalist. Time Warner shares are up about 5% at $100.91. That same day, Trump, then a candidate for president, pledged that his administration would block the deal. AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department argued that the merger between AT&T and Time Warner would introduce unfair advantages in the marketplace.

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