Comcast and AT&T get regulator nod for huge acquisition deals

Tim Maytom

Both AT&T and Comcast have had their media acquisition deals approved by regulators, giving them the green light to acquire Time Warner and Sky respectively.

The Comcast deal was approved by EU antitrust regulators, who gave the thumbs up to the US cable company's plans to acquire European pay-TV group Sky without demanding concessions, saying that the deal did not raised any competition concerns.

"The proposed transaction would lead to only a limited increase in Sky's existing share of the markets for the acquisition of TV content, as well as in the market for the wholesale supply of TV channels in the relevant member states,"  said the EU competition agency.

Comcast, which is the world's largest broadcaster and entertainment company, currently owns NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, Telemundo, E! and various other properties. It is also currently bidding against Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox.

AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner Inc was similarly given the nod by US antitrust regulators, who indicated they would not seek to delay the $85bn (£64bn) deal, despite opposition from President Trump.

AT&T was sued by the Justice Department over the deal, but won approval from US District Judge Richard Leon, who gave the deal the thumbs up to move forward. The Justice Department still has 60 days to appeal the decision, but the blessing given by the antitrust authorities takes AT&T's deal another step closer to completion.

President Trump, who has been a frequent critic of Time Warner's CNN coverage, denounced the deal when it was first announced in October 2016. The Justice Department, in its lawsuit aimed at stopping the deal, said that AT&T's ownership of both DirectTV and Time Warner subsidiary Turner would give the company leverage against rival pay TV providers.

In his opinion on the ruling, Leon said there was little to support the government's arguments that the deal would harm consumers, calling the evidence for one argument against the deal "poppycock" and another "gossamer thin".

The approval of both deals could prove massively impactful for the broadcasting and media sectors, triggering a wave of mergers by a sector that has been disrupted by digital services like Netflix and Amazon.