U.S. V. AT&T-Time Warner Starts Monday, and It’s Put Up Time for Uncle Sam

Monday is a watershed day for AT&T and maybe for American antitrust law.The Dallas telecom giant is scheduled to be in court to defend its proposed merger with Time Warner Inc., a deal that it says will strengthen the companies, spur competition and benefit consumers.The optimistic pitch may sound familiar. In 2015, when AT&T bought DirecTV to become the world’s largest provider of pay television, it pledged to bring innovations that would reach millions of people.AT&T promptly created a national plan with TV anywhere. Customers could sign up at an AT&T store and walk out watching NFL football on their smartphones.The next year, the company launched DirecTV NOW, a streaming service with no set-top boxes, satellite dishes or annual contracts. The introductory offer included 100-plus channels for $35 a month, and by last December, more than 1 million customers had signed up.That history is important context as AT&T seeks to merge with the owner of CNN, HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. By combining Time Warner’s world-class content with its huge reach in wireless and pay TV, AT&T plans to lead the next evolution in video entertainment.But this time, the U.S. government has sued to block the deal. Monday’s trial in Washington would be the the first time in decades that the feds have litigated a so-called vertical merger -- a combination that doesn’t eliminate any competitors.  Continue reading...

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