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AT&T Says Trump Meeting Didn't Discuss Time Warner Acquisition

12 Jan, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Despite President-elect's campaign comments in opposition to the deal, the two parties apparently talked about other things

AT&T said a Jan. 12 meeting with President-elect Donald Trump didn't include discussions regarding the telecom’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Trump has publicly said he opposes the merger on the grounds it consolidates too much power in one media company.

AT&T, in a statement reported by NBC News, said the meeting covered a variety of topics, including increased investment, job creation in the United States and making American companies more competitive globally.

"As the country's leading investor of capital for each of the past five years, the conversation focused on how AT&T can work with the Trump Administration," the statement read.

Regardless, consummation of the AT&T/Time Warner transaction requires regulatory approval from a pending revamped Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission — both of which will be staffed with personnel appointed by Trump.

Pending approval, combining AT&T’s distribution channels, which include mobile and DirecTV, with Time Warner’s content creation units Warner Bros., HBO and TNT (including CNN), the companies aim to give consumers increased choices via ad-supported and subscription OTT and TV Everywhere models.

The President-elect is well versed in media and entertainment, becoming executive producer of “The Apprentice” in 2003, and later co-executive producer with Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) of “The Celebrity Apprentice.” 

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Dec. 6 told an investor group he believed Trump would impose corporate tax reform and reshape the FCC into a regulatory group better reflecting industry concerns in a rapidly evolving video distribution ecosystem.

“We’re hopeful that perhaps a more moderate approach to some of these regulations is in the making in a Trump Administration,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson cited a Trump speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, in which he voiced concern about the impact regulation over the past years has had on job creation and business growth.

“Those comments by themselves, as a business person, gives you some encouragement that maybe we can see some moderation of some of the regulatory aspects that we’ve seen over the last few months,” he said.

It remains to be seen how Trump’s contentious relationship with some members of the media affected the meeting. The President-elect and CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta Jan. 11 had a terse verbal exchange during Trump’s first press conference at Trump Tower when Trump refused to take Acosta’s questions after accusing CNN of being a fake news organization. 

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