AT&T Says Time Warner Merger Won't Hurt Consumers

AT&T is asking a federal appellate court to reject the government's attempt to unwind the company's recent $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

"This merger ... is designed to unlock the consumer benefits generated by combining content creation with direct consumer relationships," AT&T writes in papers filed Thursday with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The company adds that the merger will enable it "to build a national platform for targeted video advertising that will challenge the digital-advertising duopoly of Google and Facebook" and "to develop more innovative video products for mobile users and make content more responsive to viewer preferences."

AT&T's papers come in response to the Justice Department's appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon's decision to reject an antitrust challenge to the deal. The DOJ unsuccessfully argued to Leon that the merger -- which brings cable companies including CNN and HBO into AT&T's fold -- was anticompetitive and would lead to decreased competition and higher prices for consumers. Among other arguments, the government contended that the merger would enable the telecom to harm competitors by withholding (or demanding excessive fees) for popular channels.

Leon rejected the government's position, writing that AT&T has an incentive to distribute Time Warner content "as broadly as possible."

The DOJ recently asked the D.C. Circuit to reverse Leon's decision, arguing that the judge ignored "fundamental principles of economics and common sense."

AT&T counters that Leon "meticulously evaluated the evidence and rejected the factual underpinnings of DOJ’s case."

The merger closed in late June, but AT&T is managing the Turner network separately from DirecTV and U-Verse. The company plans to maintain that structure until the earlier of February 28, 2019, or the conclusion of the government's appeal.

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