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AT&T CEO says it is 'at pace' to close $85B merger with Time Warner by year-end

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He also expects no review by the FCC

AT&T

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson is expecting the massive $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner to close by the end of the year, telling CNBC this morning that the “one-track review” by the Department of Justice is going “at pace.”

"I've had two conversations with President Trump and his administration. In neither one of those conversations was there any discussion about this deal,” Stephenson said.

Prior to the election, Donald Trump had opposed the deal, calling it "an example of the power structure I’m fighting." Stephenson also said AT&T will not assume licenses from Time Warner, avoiding a review by the Federal Communications Commission now led by Trump-appointed Ajit Pai, an opponent of net neutrality.

If allowed to go through, AT&T will gain access to Time Warner properties including CNN, HBO, and Warner Bros. As we highlighted earlier when the deal was announced, there is a potential advantage for customers who may be offered better bundles to access premium content from AT&T at a lower cost. However, the deal still creates potential risk for customers considering that AT&T has already shown a willingness to favor companies it owns. Furthermore, if telecom providers are allowed to continue acquiring media content companies, consumers may have a difficult time accessing that content from competitors’ networks. We’re already beginning to see these exclusive-type deals happen in the music industry with album launches on Apple Music or Tidal. It’s hard to imagine that many customers want their mobile carriers to dictate whether they can access ESPN or HBO from their smartphone.

It’s still possible that the Justice Department may block the deal under pressure from consumers or President Trump himself, but for now, Stephenson remains optimistic and reiterates that the deal won’t affect current offerings for consumers: “The media and entertainment industry is going to look exactly as it does today, so it is a clean transaction and we feel good about it."