It’s been a pretty chilly climate recently for companies seeking mega-mergers.
Comcast’s attempt to buy Time Warner Cable was blocked. Same with Aetna-Humana, Staples-Office Depot, and a few others.
But the big difference between those deals and the one proposed by AT&T and Time Warner is that the two companies argue they don’t directly compete with each other.
AT&T delivers content, while Time Warner makes the content. (Time Warner is a separate company from Time Warner Cable, which is now owned by Charter. Confusing!) In their view, merging the two together won’t remove any competition from the market.
It’s very similar to Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, which was proposed in 2009 and ultimately allowed to go through. Comcast delivers content through its cable and broadband services. NBC produces content. And Comcast still delivers content from NBC rivals ranging from Disney to CBS.
That’s the argument AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes have been parroting since the $85 billion deal was formally announced Saturday night. The acquisition is more like the Comcast-NBC deal than any of the other proposed horizontal mergers we’ve seen recently. The two companies don’t compete with each other, and therefore won’t harm competition. It’s their best hope of convincing regulators to approve the deal.
Still, any deal of this size will face intense scrutiny and require concessions by AT&T and Time Warner if it hopes to go through.