AT&T may have to dump CNN to get Time Warner deal approved

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Buying Time Warner would give AT&T more video through HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and other cable networks and the Warner Bros. movie studio.

As U.S. wireless growth slows down, AT&T has been looking for ways to marry its nationwide wireless business with video, which Americans increasingly watch on the internet.

According to a Justice Department official, AT&T has offered to divest CNN. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said.

Manne said he sees the Justice Department's remarks as "part of a settlement negotiation".

Speculation among Wall Street insiders and people within the companies has risen over whether the administration's feeling about CNN could be influencing the decision, the Journal reported.

AT&T sources said the Journal story was an unwelcome surprise. He said during the campaign that he would block the merger, citing the concentration of media. "While we won't comment on our discussions with DOJ, we see no reason in the law or the facts why this transaction should be an exception". But many, including AT&T executives, expected the acquisition to be finalized by the end of the year, and the DOJ's pushback has all but ensured that won't be the case.

But on Wednesday morning, AT&T said the timing of the deal's closing is now "uncertain".

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AT&T may need to jettison CNN to close Time Warner deal
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump's Justice Department was weighing a lawsuit challenging the deal. The demands thought to be being made of AT&T follow vocal opposition by President Donald Trump to the acquisition.

"I have never been told that the price of getting the deal done was selling CNN, period", Stephenson said at a conference Thursday.

Stephens reiterated confidence in the deal, saying "these types of mergers bring great benefit to customers and have very routinely been approved by the DOJ and the federal government".

Unfortunately, despite Trump's rhetoric on the stump, he has not held to that view as president. As president, he frequently criticizes CNN.

The DOJ should forget about CNN and reject the merger to prevent further consolidation of media power.

So some observers have been concerned about possible interference all year long.

When asked whether the president still personally opposes the AT&T-Time Warner deal, Conway said, "I haven't discussed that with him lately".

"We have been working very diligently on a litigation strategy and a litigation plan", he said, adding: "We would obviously ask for an expedited hearing".

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