Hypothetical Survey Emerges as Key to Government Case Against AT&T-Time Warner Deal

Federal officials sought to lay the groundwork Thursday for a key argument in its historic antitrust case against AT&T and Time Warner, attempting to show how the nearly $109 billion megamerger could lead to sharp subscriber declines among AT&T's rivals in the TV business.Cable companies and other TV providers could lose roughly 12 percent of their customer base in the event of a protracted, hypothetical programming dispute with an AT&T-owned Time Warner, said John Hauser, a marketing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who appeared in federal court Thursday as the Justice Department's expert witness.Hauser's results are based on a series of online surveys conducted across 1,600 people using established research methods developed in the 1960s, he said. The study is critical to the Justice Department's case, because its findings plug directly into the agency's economic models showing that the AT&T merger will lead to higher prices for consumers.But under questioning by AT&T, Hauser conceded that he had not analyzed any real-world programming disputes, where actual subscriber losses have sometimes been far less substantial.  Continue reading...

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