AT&T closes $85 billion deal for Time Warner


AT&T and Time Warner have completed their merger, one of the biggest media deals ever, just two days after a federal judge approved the combination over objections by the Trump Justice Department that it would hurt consumers and competition.

Earlier Thursday, the Justice Department said in a court filing that it would not ask for a stay to stop the merger, and the companies and the Justice Department together said that the deal could be closed immediately.

US District Judge Richard Leon on Tuesday said the government had failed to meet its burden of proof that the tie-up between the largest US pay-TV operator and the media entertainment giant would harm competition.

The ruling allowed AT&T to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, "must-see" shows and coveted sports programming like college basketball championships. "Combine all that with AT&T's strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience", Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, said in a statement.

AT&T and Time Warner argued they need more scale to compete with online rivals like Netflix and Amazon and with Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and Apple, which are expanding in the rapidly evolving sector.

The Justice Department may still appeal the judge's ruling in the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on an appeal hasn't been made.

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Leon had urged the government not to seek a judicial postponement of the merger for a possible appeal.

Leon also told Justice Department lawyers in court that he did not believe the government was likely to win an appeal on the merits.

In addition, AT&T Communications will have no say in setting Turner's prices or other terms in contracts with companies that distribute its content.

"As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few", then-candidate Trump said in a campaign speech.

The merger will fuse a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels that programming to consumers.

The first to come was Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) $65 billion bid on Wednesday for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O).