US: DoJ’s antitrust case against AT&T/ TW sets sights on the small screen

A according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal the antitrust fight over AT&T’s US$85 billion takeover of Time Warner will focus heavily on the small screen, with much of its evidence coming from the companies’ video rivals. Those competitors argue the telecom company will use Time Warner’s entertainment assets against them,

Quite a few big name companies have provided information to the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently to help its case that the merger could hinder competition. According to the WSJ among this companies are Dish Network, DISH, Showtime owner CBS, 21st Century Fox, Netflix Inc. and Starz.

Government lawyers have subpoenaed roughly 30 third parties for information in the case, DOJ attorney Craig Conrath told federal judge Richard Leon at a pretrial hearing Friday, January 5. Such requests are typical in high-profile antitrust cases.

AT&T is also gearing up for the legal fight. The company has drawn up a wish list of 22 potential witnesses, while the government has requested up to 35, AT&T lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli said.

“We have agreed to bring them from all over the country to Washington, D.C., to make it easier on the process,” said Mr. Petrocelli.

According to the Journal central to the case is how the AT&T-Time Warner deal would affect rival video distributors. AT&T, which would own Warner Bros. as well as cable channels like TNT and CNN, has said that the television ecosystem is awash in content and that its deal won’t deter the industry transformation that is taking place.

AT&T has argued that the emergence of newer platforms like Netflix and the entry of tech giants like Amazon.com into video content means that new viewers will still have an ample range of choices regardless of what the telecom company does with Time Warner. The DOJ sees things differently, arguing that a postmerger AT&T could force rival TV providers to pay more for Time Warner.

Full Content: The Wall Street Journal

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