On Tuesday, AT&T got final approval to purchase Time Warner. The acquisition, which was first announced in 2016, had been blocked by the U.S. Justice Department. When the merger is completed, HBO, CNN, and film studio Warner Bros. will be owned by the No. 2 carrier in the U.S.
According to CNBC, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon approved the $85.4 acquisition without conditions. He also urged the U.S. government not to seek a stay.
In 2017, the Trump administration sued to block the merger, believing that AT&T, which owns DirecTV, could charge rival distributors more for Time Warner content, resulting in higher prices for consumers. AT&T said that logic didn't hold up, a position Judge Leon accepted.
The AT&T-Time Warner merger should close later this month. As AT&T General Counsel David McAtee explained soon after hearing the result:
We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner. We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said the Justice Department was disappointed by the decision, noting:
We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. We will closely review the Court’s opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers.
CNBC believes this megamerger will spur a wave of deals in the telecom and media industries. Comcast-NBC Universal, for example, is now expected to fight Disney with a competing bid for parts of Twenty-First Century Fox.
Before AT&T's bid, there were rumors that Apple would make a play for Time Warner. However, those rumors turned out not to be true. Instead, Apple is working with content providers to bring original video content to properties like Apple TV and Apple Music as early as next year.
Besides HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros., Time Warner owns TBS, TCM, and TNT.