AT&T and Time Warner have agreed to move the breakup date for their proposed merger until Jun. 21, 2018.
Each would have been able to terminate the deal if it had not closed by Apr. 22, 2018, but the Justice Department suit to block the deal does not begin until March 15, which would have been cutting it too close.
AT&T and Time Warner informed the Securities and Exchange Commission of the change Dec. 21.
The deal was announced Oct. 22.
According to Justice, the combined company would "use its control over Time Warner’s valuable and highly popular networks to hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for the right to distribute those networks. The combined company would also use its increased power to slow the industry’s transition to new and exciting video distribution models that provide greater choice for consumers, resulting in fewer innovative offerings and higher bills for American families."
AT&T had already signaled it expected a fight with the government and was ready for one. AT&T lawyers argue that the vertical merger does not require spin-offs of Time Warner programming assets--like CNN--to preserve a competitive marketplace for the distribution of content. Justice disagrees.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.