AT&T, Time Warner CEOs invoke big tech threat in merger push
There are five new players in the battle to win federal approval of the $85.4 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner: Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
The size, reach, and balance sheets of the tech giants were cited as a primary impetus for the AT&T-Time Warner nuptials during a hearing on the merger Wednesday with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nearly threehour session marked the first real test of how the deal will play in the court of public opinion amid the populist uprising spurred by Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes faced expected questions about the deal’s impact on prices for consumers, the competitive landscape for Time Warner’s content rivals, and whether the enlarged company would be able to squash independent programmers. The scope of the combined company is a bipartisan concern, judging by the questioning from committee members. That concern is especially acute as the incoming presidential administration has vowed to rescind the FCC’s existing net neutrality rules designed to police high-speed data providers like AT&T from erecting tollbooths on the Internet.
Related AT&T, Time Warner Chiefs Face Questions About Merger in Senate Hearing In that context, it’s no surprise that the CEOs would invoke the threat posed by the tech giants who, in varying degrees, are becoming increasingly focused on video. Stephenson positioned the enlarged company as angling to drive major changes to television’s status quo before they’re beaten to the punch by Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. —Reuters