The Department of Justice isn’t done fighting the AT&T-Time Warner merger

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed to appeal a federal judge’s decision to approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner.

Back when he was campaigning for the presidency, Donald Trump said his administration would block the deal, and indeed, the DOJ sued to stop the merger, arguing it would hurt competition.

Last month, however, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the deal could move forward without conditions. He said from the bench, “The court has now spoken. … The defendants have won” — and the deal closed later that week.

In fact, we’re already starting to see some of the fallout, with AT&T’s reported plans for Time Warner-owned HBO leading to a flurry of worried headlines in just the past couple days.

The deal also seemed to set the stage for even more consolidation between telecom and media companies, leading Comcast to challenge Disney for ownership of Fox’s film and TV assets. (TechCrunch was already a very small part of this trend, since we’re owned by Verizon.)

“The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned,” said AT&T General Counsel David McAtee in a statement. “While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Trump administration appeals court loss in AT&T/Time Warner case

The US Department of Justice will appeal the court ruling that allowed AT&T to purchase Time Warner Inc.

AT&T completed the merger after getting a favorable ruling from a judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia last month. The Trump administration’s Justice Department did not seek a stay of the ruling, so AT&T was able to take ownership of Time Warner. But the DOJ is appealing the judge’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the DOJ said in a court filing today.

A court could theoretically force AT&T and Time Warner to reverse the merger. AT&T said it would maintain some separation between its old and new business units in a post-verdict letter to the DOJ. That separation might make undoing the merger logistically easier if the DOJ wins its appeal.

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U.S. Department of Justice Files Appeal to Block AT&T and Time Warner Merger

A month after a judge approved AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner with no conditions, the United States Department of Justice has announced plans to appeal the merger’s approval.



In a court document filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the DoJ announced its formal appeal. No additional data was included in the initial document.

Notice is hereby given that the United States of America, plaintiff in the above named case, appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from the final judgment entered in this action on June 12, 2018.

AT&T first announced its plan to purchase Time Warner in late 2017, but the acquisition was put on hold when the DoJ filed a lawsuit to put a stop to the merger based on the grounds that it would result in higher bills and fewer options for consumers.

A judge in June, however, ruled that the merger was legal, and while the Justice Department said it was disappointed in the court’s ruling and would consider its next steps “in light of [its] commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers,” it ultimately decided not to interfere with a stay at the time that the ruling was announced.

Just days after the judge’s approval, AT&T completed its acquisition of Time Warner, but the DoJ is still able to appeal the decision even after the completion of the merger.

Shortly after the acquisition, AT&T announced a new WatchTV service that offers AT&T wireless subscribers under the new “AT&T Unlimited &More” and “AT&T Unlimited &More Premium” plans access to more than 30 live channels and 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand. These new plans are more expensive than AT&T’s previous unlimited wireless plans, but includes WatchTV. On a standalone basis, WatchTV is $15 per month.



While AT&T said that its prices would not increase following the merger, it raised prices on its DirecTV Now plans by $5. AT&T also recently raised its administrative fees for postpaid wireless subscribers to $1.99, which some analysts have speculated is to make up for the expense of the Time Warner purchase.

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AT&T and Warner Media Leadership Outline Changes Coming to HBO Over the Next Year

On June 19, former AT&T executive and new chief executive of Warner Media John Stankey spoke to a group of HBO employees about changes coming to the premium cable company in the near future. The discussion was held in the wake of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, which owns HBO, and also included HBO’s chief executive officer Richard Plepler.

The telecommunications company previously stated that it would take a “hands-off approach” to running HBO, but The New York Times this weekend reported on Stankey’s speech and it sounds like that might not be the case. According to a video of the discussion, Stankey explained Warner Media’s intent to align HBO more alongside streaming companies like Netflix in order to increase its subscriber base, although he refrained from referencing Netflix by name.



This means creating more content that releases at a faster pace, in comparison to HBO’s current stable of limited Sunday night-focused shows. According to Stankey, the goal is to increase the hours per day viewers watch HBO, which is currently less than rivals like Netflix and Hulu because of HBO’s smaller catalog.

“We need hours a day,” Mr. Stankey said, referring to the time viewers spend watching HBO programs. “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”

Continuing this thread, Stankey specifically stated that more hours of user engagement means that Warner Media can “get more data and information” to monetize through advertisements and new subscription options.

“I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow’s world.”

As the discussion continued, Stankey appeared to have butted heads slightly with Plepler on the topic of HBO’s monetization, which Stankey believes can be increased through his new methods. Plepler claimed that the company is already a consistent moneymaker, to which Stankey responded: “Yes, yes you do… Just not enough.”

Stankey and Warner Media hope that an increased output of original content will boost HBO’s 40 million paid subscribers in the United States, which Stankey said as of now “was not going to cut it.” Comparatively, Netflix earlier this year had 55 million U.S. subscribers and Hulu in May had 20 million.

HBO’s business currently expands across paid cable add-on packages, the connected HBO GO app, and standalone HBO NOW app. Stankey said that Warner Media’s plans will kick off soon and “there’s going to be more work” for HBO employees over the next twelve months, which he called a “dog year.”

While Apple wasn’t mentioned in the discussion, the Cupertino company is another upcoming competitor in the streaming TV market, with plans to debut more than a dozen television shows beginning sometime in 2019. Although the distribution of these shows remains unclear, the company is rumored to be planning a bundle with original TV content, Apple Music, and more.

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AT&T promised lower prices after Time Warner merger—it’s raising them instead

AT&T is raising the base price of its DirecTV Now streaming service by $5 per month, despite promising in court that its acquisition of Time Warner Inc. would lower TV prices.

AT&T confirmed the price increase to Ars and said it began informing customers of the increase this past weekend. “The $5 increase will go into effect July 26 for new customers and varies for existing customers based on their billing date,” an AT&T spokesperson said.

The $5 increase will affect all DirecTV Now tiers except for a Spanish-language TV package, AT&T told Ars. That means the DirecTV Now packages that currently cost $35, $50, $60, and $70 a month will go up to $40, $55, $65, and $75.

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AT&T removed HBO from an unlimited data plan after buying Time Warner

AT&T has been offering free HBO to its unlimited data customers since last year, and you might have expected that deal to continue unaltered now that AT&T owns HBO thanks to its acquisition of Time Warner Inc.

But AT&T revamped its two unlimited mobile plans this week, and in the process it raised the price for the entry-level plan by $5 a month while removing the free HBO perk. The entry-level unlimited plan now starts at $70 instead of $65.

Existing customers can keep their old plan and the free HBO, but new customers or those who switch plans will have to buy the more expensive unlimited plan to get HBO at no added cost.

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AT&T buying company that delivers targeted ads based on your Web browsing

AT&T is buying an advertising company that delivers personalized ads based on Internet users’ Web browsing habits.

AT&T today announced “a definitive agreement to acquire AppNexus,” saying that “AT&T is investing to accelerate the growth of its advertising platform and strengthen its leadership in advanced TV advertising.”

AT&T’s just-completed purchase of Time Warner Inc. will help it gather more information about people’s video watching habits, both online and on cable and satellite TV services. AT&T could combine this data with AppNexus in order to deliver more personalized ads based on its customers’ TV watching and Web browsing histories.

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AT&T Follows Time Warner Acquisition With Reveal of Live ‘WatchTV’ Service and New Unlimited Phone Plans

One week after completing its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T today announced the impending launch of an all-new live TV service called “WatchTV,” which unsurprisingly includes many channels under the Time Warner umbrella (via Engadget). This appears to be the service not focused on sports that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in April would be coming very soon.

The announcement came alongside AT&T’s reveal of two new unlimited wireless plans, called “AT&T Unlimited &More” and “AT&T Unlimited &More Premium.” WatchTV will be directly tied into these cellular plans, offering plan subscribers access to the TV service at no additional cost.



The service includes 30+ live channels, over 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand, and will be available on “virtually every” smartphone, tablet, browser, and streaming device. Subscribers to &More Premium will be able to add one of several premium services for no extra charge: HBO, SHOWTIME, Cinemax, Starz, Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora Premium, or VRV.

Here’s the full list of channels available on WatchTV at launch:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • Audience
  • BBC World News
  • BBC America
  • Boomerang
  • Cartoon Network
  • CNN
  • Discovery
  • Food Network
  • FYI
  • Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • HGTV
  • History
  • HLN
  • IFC
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • Lifetime Movies
  • OWN
  • Sundance TV
  • TBS
  • TCM
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • TRU TV
  • Velocity
  • Viceland
  • WE TV

Channels coming soon after launch include:

  • BET
  • Comedy Central
  • MTV 2
  • Nicktoons
  • Teennick
  • VH1

The &More Premium plan (starting at $80/month for an individual line) offers WatchTV, a premium service add-on, 15GB of high-speed tethering, access to 1080p high definition video, and a $15 monthly credit to put towards DirecTV, DirecTV Now, or U-verse TV, similar to the carrier’s current unlimited plans. On the lower tier, &More (starting at $70/month) offers WatchTV, a $15 monthly credit to DirecTV Now, access to 480p video, and up to 4G LTE unlimited data.

AT&T didn’t give many other details about the new unlimited plans, but said that more information will be coming when they launch, which is expected sometime next week. Additionally, the company confirmed that WatchTV will be available as a $15/month standalone live TV streaming service for those not on an AT&T unlimited cellular plan, and those details will also come at a later time.

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