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So Says the Judge

That would be U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. And he was coming after the Justice Department in a lengthy decision that picked apart its case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger.

Here are some highlights from Leon’s decision.

“The government does not dispute that AT&T’s wireless business confers strong incentives to maximize distribution to virtual MVPDs. AT&T has positioned itself to ride the industry tailwinds in support of mobile consumption of video.”

“The government’s so-called ‘real world objective evidence’ is insufficient to support its increased-leverage theory of harm.”

On the other hand: “Real-world evidence indicating that prior vertical integration of programmers and distributors has not affected affiliate fee negotiations undermines the government’s increased-leverage theory.”

“It is … no surprise that programmers and distributors alike have noted the competitive threat posed by SVODs. After all, as Nobel laureate Bob Dylan correctly observed: ‘You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.’ ”

“Despite the government’s efforts to paint a contrary picture, this is not a case containing direct, probative evidence of anticompetitive intent.”

“The bulk of the third-party competitor testimony proffered by the government was speculative, based on unproven assumptions, or unsupported … by the government’s own evidence. Especially in view of the fact that the third-party competitor witnesses have an incentive to oppose a merger that would allow AT&T to increase innovation while lowering costs, such testimony falls far short of persuasively showing that this merger threatens to harm competition by allowing Turner to wield increased bargaining leverage.”