With AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Dish arguing over a distribution deal, one AT&T executive has suggested Dish and the Department of Justice are collaborating to reverse the green light on the Time Warner acquisition.
The conspiracy theory is hitting new highs here. AT&T is effectively accusing Dish of actively working to create a no-deal situation in negotiations with WarnerMedia over rights to air HBO content. Although having HBO and Cinemax channels go dark on the Dish service would have a negative impact on business, it does coincidentally work well for the Justice Departments case appeal against the Time Warner merger.
WarnerMedia have been in negotiations over the right to air content, with it claiming it offered to extend the previous contract while negotiating but Dish declined. As a result, HBO content has disappeared from the Dish service.
“Dish’s proposals and actions made it clear they never intended to seriously negotiate an agreement,” said Simon Sutton, HBO President and Chief Revenue Officer, in a statement to Reuters.
With the appeal based on the grounds the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner would offer it undue control and influence in the industry, stagnant negotiations certainly add credibility to the objections from the Department of Justice. Manipulating the playing field however, as AT&T is accusing Dish of, is a serious no-no when it comes to the courts.
“This behaviour, unfortunately, is consistent with what the Department of Justice predicted would result from the merger,” said a representative of the Department of Justice. “We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will correct the errors of the District Court.”
“The Department of Justice collaborated closely with Dish in its unsuccessful lawsuit to block our merger,” WarnerMedia responded. “That collaboration continues to this day with Dish’s tactical decision to drop HBO – not the other way around. DOJ failed to prove its claims about HBO at trial and then abandoned them on appeal.”
The $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner proved to be a messy affair for AT&T. While some would have expected some resistance from the industry, the objections of President Trump seems to have encouraged the Department of Justice to chase down every lead, and make life as difficult as possible. The Department of Justice’s appeal against the approval of the deal, is effectively built on the assumption Judge Richard Leon didn’t know what he was talking about.
Publicity stunt? Monopolistic ambition? Nefarious schemes? Whatever the basis of this story, more fuel has been added onto one of the longest running sagas in the telco industry.