The AT&T and Time Warner merger is dangerous for media consumers and the media industry and shows that companies are not only money-hungry, but are also paying as much as they need to gain control over content.
According to Bloomberg News, AT&T Inc. is coming close to finalizing a deal to acquire entertainment company Time Warner – not to be confused with Time Warner Cable, the satellite cable service – for about $86 billion, which would allow AT&T rights to all Time Warner properties, such as HBO, TBS and TNT, which hosts NBA broadcasts. This acquisition would give AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier, complete control over these brands and potentially be able to make them exclusive for AT&T customers. If this happens, AT&T would have leverage over consumers that want to watch “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” the NBA, “Westworld” and so much more.
This deal is incredibly similar to Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011, one that the Department of Justice had many concerns about with regards to antitrust matters. The DOJ is concerned about this deal too and the fact AT&T could increase prices for Time Warner content or could use an increase in price as leverage over other satellite cable companies that keep their customers by providing Time Warner channels.
Consumers, especially non-AT&T customers, should be incredibly concerned about this deal. As of late, the DOJ under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected not to block this deal, which would mean that subscribers of other satellite providers may be forced to pay more for their subscriptions, due to AT&T increasing prices for other providers to carry the channels.
This acquisition would prove to be incredibly dangerous for consumers, especially since AT&T could favor its own customers or force customers of other satellite or cellular providers to switch to AT&T, giving them a marketplace advantage.
This deal proves that content is becoming much more powerful than the means of consuming it. As mobile and internet-enabled devices add to the amount of ways one can watch TV and other media, the way in which one consumes it is becoming much less important. Media companies, such as AT&T, are now realizing that controlling the content and its price can control the consumer and give them an advantage in the marketplace. The days of being forced to have a cable or satellite subscription with the right price and the right channels is over, and now that media distribution is less black and white, tech conglomerates are moving to have control over a consumers’ favorite TV shows to make the most money.
The idea of the content becoming the most important factor to these companies also proves that digital media consumption is becoming the most prevalent medium in today’s world and gives a better picture for the direction in which the media industry is heading. With traditional distribution companies, such as AT&T and Comcast, making moves to acquire entertainment companies, the media industry is obviously looking to distribute to as many consumers as possible in this period where consumers are becoming more unpredictable.
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