Justice Dept. tries again to get AT&T-Time Warner stopped, threatening new AT&T WatchTV

Justice Dept. tries again to get AT&T-Time Warner stopped, threatening new AT&T WatchTV

The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge's approval last month of AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, a deal that was expected to usher in a wave of media and telecom mergers designed to counter the growing heft and influence of Netflix, Amazon and Apple. AT&T announced the deal in October 2016, but the U.S. government sued to block the merger in November 2017, saying one company having so much power over both how Americans get their entertainment (AT&T provides broadband as well as owns satellite TV service DirecTV) — and what they watch — would hurt consumers. But Judge Richard Leon approved the deal last month after a six-week trial ended in April, ruling the government had not adequately made the case the combination of a telecom distributor with a network of TV studios and channels would hurt competition. The DOJ's move, announced Thursday, goes against Leon's advice, which discouraged the agency from seeking a stay. "I do not believe that the Government has a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal," he said in his June 12 ruling. "The Government has had this merger on hold," he wrote, as "the video programming and distribution industry has continued to evolve at a breakneck pace." The Justice Department offered no additional comment beyond its filing Thursday. AT&T, however, did have some comments harkening back to the judge's ruling. “The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned," said AT&T General Counsel David McAtee. "While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”