Professional Development

Rutgers professor: AT&T ruling paves way for Comcast acquisition spree

Researcher Michael Carrier names Comcast as one of the companies that will feel “emboldened to proceed” with proposed acquisitions on account of the recent ruling.

Brian Roberts (far left) sits on a panel about new media at The Cable Show.

In a 172-page ruling released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon switched on a bright green light for corporate America: the $85-billion AT&T/Time Warner merger deal was found not to be harmful to consumers, striking down a block put in place by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.

In Philly, the ruling means good news for Comcast NBCUniversal, the telecom giant that is looking to acquire parts of 21st Century Fox and British broadcaster Sky.

Per Rutgers University professor Michael Carrier, an antitrust and intellectual property lawyer who co-leads the university’s Institute for Information Policy and Law, the thorough, fact-laden opinion paves the way for Comcast aspirations to become an even bigger, international company. 

“Companies contemplating (or who have already filed) vertical mergers will feel emboldened to proceed,” Carrier told Technical.ly. “This includes Comcast. A merger with a content company like Disney would be more likely to get the green light given the rejection of the DOJ’s case here.”

The researcher said the ruling recognizes that vertical mergers (the union of two companies that operate at separate stages of the production process) can potentially violate antitrust law, but that is subject to case-specific evidence.

“Vertical mergers don’t necessarily harm the market as much as horizontal mergers between direct competitors,” the researcher said.

In the ruling, Leon referred to the changing landscape of media, where legacy companies face threats by newer companies like Netflix and Amazon.

“The Fox and Sky deals would transform Comcast into a global entertainment giant that could compete with Netflix and break out of the U.S. market with its melting cable-subscriber base,” writes reporter Bob Fernandez for the Inquirer.

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