WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department has suggested to AT&T Inc officials that they figure out how to get the benefits they’re seeking from their proposed merger with Time Warner Inc without being able to own CNN, TBS and other Turner channels, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Antitrust officials have suggested that AT&T explore alternatives such as selling Turner and then forming a joint venture with the newly separated company, said two people, who asked not be named because the conversations are private.
Such a joint venture could sell advertising on the Turner networks to exploit AT&T’s user data without the telecommunications giant owning the broadcasting unit, said one of the people.
The companies aren’t actively discussing scenarios under which AT&T would sell the Turner or DirecTV satellite television units, which chief executive officer Randall Stephenson has said he wouldn’t do, the people said.
Representatives for AT&T and the Justice Department declined to comment. A Time Warner representative didn’t respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
The proposed tie-up would reshape the media landscape by uniting the biggest pay-TV distributor with the owner of CNN, Warner Bros, TNT, TBS and HBO. It represents the Justice Department’s first major antitrust test under president Donald Trump, who as a candidate criticised the combination for consolidating too much power in one company and has repeatedly called CNN’s coverage of his administration “fake news.” — Bloomberg