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AT&T CFO Says Time Warner Merger Close 'Uncertain'

8 Nov, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Closure of AT&T’s $84.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner by the end of the year is now uncertain, according to AT&T CFO John Stephens.

Speaking Nov. 8 at the Wells Fargo media & telecom confab in New York, Stephens said negotiations continue with the Department of Justice, which reportedly is considering legal action to stop the merger due to antitrust issues.

“We are in active discussions with the DOJ. I cannot comment on those discussions,” Stephens said. “But with those discussions I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain.”

Indeed, Reuters reported the DOJ is looking at "structural remedies" within the deal. Such changes could involve the sale of select company assets and would not focus on the makeup of the merged companies post-merger. The Financial Times reported the DOJ is pushing for the sale of CNN to facilitate the merger. 

At stake is AT&T’s plan to incorporate Time Warner’s massive content pipeline via Warner Bros., Turner and HBO through expanded telecommunications, satellite and over-the-top distribution.

Speaking Sept. 12 at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia confab in New York, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that following closure of the Time Warner acquisition, by the first quarter 2018 he would expect to see increased marketing of Warner Bros. movies and HBO across more than 5,000 AT&T retail stores.

Whether that could also include packaged media remains to be seen.

“You walk into an AT&T store and it is 'Justice League,' it is 'Wonder Woman,' it is season seven of 'Game of Thrones,' you pick it, that’s how we can leverage cross-promotional opportunities to really drive value into this [Time Warner] with our distribution,” he said.

Indeed, with AMC Theatres set to sell digital and physical disc movies on its website in 2018, AT&T might indeed become a retailer of home entertainment.

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