U.S. judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner

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But those tech companies now spend billions of dollars a year on original programming, and users can stream their video on apps in homes and on mobile devices, pulling attention from traditional media businesses. CNBC is reporting that Comcast will try to buy Twenty-First Century Fox if AT&T buys Time Warner. Comcast has already made an offer for Sky, the United Kingdom satellite TV business.

A federal judge on Tuesday gave his blessing to telecom giant AT&T's drive to take over the Time Warner media conglomerate.

The merger's approval was a stinging defeat for the Justice Department, which could move to appeal Leon's ruling. "We will closely review the Court's opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers".

CVS Health, which has a pending $68 billion deal to buy Aetna, and Cigna, which has a $54 billion deal to buy Express Scripts, are likely relieved as they, too, are seeking clearance for controversial vertical mergers. Major cable, satellite and phone companies are bulking up with purchases of entertainment conglomerates to compete against rivals born on the internet, like Amazon and Google.

Critics charged that Trump had come out against the deal because of Time Warner's CNN, which has been highly critical of his presidency. The government had opposed the deal, claiming that it would limit competition and raise costs for consumers.

The merger would create a media and telecommunications powerhouse, reshaping the landscape of those industries.

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Media executives increasingly say that content creation and distribution must be married to survive against rising technology companies like Amazon and Netflix. Last fall, he presented AT&T and Time Warner with two options: Sell the majority stake in either DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting. The merged companies could withhold programming from competitors, pressuring consumers to switch to AT&T services.

Bloomberg via Getty Images AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson exits federal court in April.

"We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner", AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said.

Some critics of President Trump have questioned whether the case was brought as political payback against Time Warner's CNN for unfavorable coverage of President Trump, who often called the cable news channel "fake news". Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have raised questions about the Justice Department's motivations and the White House's influence in deciding to take the case to court.

The decision by Judge Richard Leon is a setback for Makan Delrahim, President Trump appointee to the top spot in the Justice Department's antitrust division, challenging his view of antitrust laws in the digital era. Sessions did not comply with the request. The loss is a black eye for the Justice Department.

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