AT&T will be allowed to complete its takeover of media giant Time Warner, with a judge dismissing a Trump administration lawsuit to block the merger, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
But after a six-week trial, US District Judge Richard Leon said the government had failed to meet its burden of proof that the merger would harm consumers.
U.S. government regulators tried to block the US$85 billion (NZ$120bn) deal, arguing the merger would reduce competition in pay TV and lead to higher prices for consumers.
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The Justice Department could appeal the ruling.
The $65bn bid, made on Wednesday afternoon, comes in a week of seismic change for the media industry.
AT&T announced plans to acquire Time Warner on October 22, 2016.
But AT&T rejected that idea, stating in a court filing that, "Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is created to unlock".
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"This ruling, coupled with the government's abdication of open Internet protections yesterday, means the future of the Internet and content distribution is in the hands of a few, increasingly consolidated and powerful corporate gatekeepers", the Writer's Guild of America West told The Register. Time Warner's assets will help the telecommunications company keep up. "It really makes an appeal very hard for the government and most likely the AT&T-Time Warner transaction is going to close early next week", Greenfield told Cheddar.
"The government here has taken its best shot to oppose this merger", Leon said, speaking to a packed courtroom in an unusual session weeks after the trial ended. But he signed off on the deal with no conditions and knocked down the government's contentions point by point. An appeal is possible from either side. Given the current termination date of the merger agreement of June 21, 2018, a stay of the ruling could cause Time Warner to forego extending the agreement and seek other suitors instead, allowing for conclusion.
The ruling is a stinging defeat for the Justice Department. Now that the merger has been approved look for the service to roll out this year.
Shares of other media and telecom companies also rose, including T-Mobile US Inc, Sprint Corp, CBS Corp, Dish Network Corp, Discovery Inc and Viacom Inc. AT&T offers broadband, satellite, wireless connections - and the movies, TV shows and online video that flows over them. It claims about 25 million of the 90 million or so US households that are pay-TV customers.
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In the decision (PDF) closing the case, Judge Leon said that the government's arguments against the deal fell flat. Numerous company's assets were long thought to be acquired by Disney, but as promised, Comcast has now officially swooped in with a superior offer to acquire Fox's film studio, most of its TV channels, and more. Comcast and Verizon are also jockeying for position in the new landscape. Trump later said the merger was "not good for the country", believing it could increase pay-TV prices. Some suspected, however, that the real motivation behind the DOJ's case may be personal and political agenda of Donald Trump himself: He sees CNN as his political nemesis, and CNN is owned by Time Warner.