AT&T Said to Be in Early Government Talks for Time Warner Approval


U.S. antitrust officials have started talking to representatives from AT&T and Time Warner about possible conditions that could secure approval of their $85.4 billion tie-up, according to people familiar with the matter.

The early-stage discussions suggest that government lawyers have nearly finished their months-long look at how AT&T, the biggest pay-TV distributor, would reshape the media landscape with its bid for the owner of CNN and HBO — and shows that the sides have moved on to talking about how they can make the merger work without harming rivals.

U.S. antitrust officials, who have blocked many tie-ups between direct competitors, rarely step in to stop vertical deals like this one. But the Justice Department is under pressure not to wave this merger through. Media and pay-TV competitors have told department lawyers they fear AT&T would favor the in-house programming that it would acquire, two people familiar with the matter said. Democratic lawmakers have said the deal could lead to higher prices and fewer choices. And President Donald Trump said during the campaign that the tie-up would concentrate media power.

U.S. antitrust officials have started talking to representatives from AT&T and Time Warner about possible conditions that could secure approval of their $85.4 billion tie-up, according to people familiar with the matter.

The early-stage discussions suggest that government lawyers have nearly finished their months-long look at how AT&T, the biggest pay-TV distributor, would reshape the media landscape with its bid for the owner of CNN and HBO — and shows that the sides have moved on to talking about how they can make the merger work without harming rivals.

U.S. antitrust officials, who have blocked many tie-ups between direct competitors, rarely step in to stop vertical deals like this one. But the Justice Department is under pressure not to wave this merger through. Media and pay-TV competitors have told department lawyers they fear AT&T would favor the in-house programming that it would acquire, two people familiar with the matter said. Democratic lawmakers have said the deal could lead to higher prices and fewer choices. And President Donald Trump said during the campaign that the tie-up would concentrate media power.

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