The approval of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner signals big changes in the US telecoms market. AT&T gains access to Time Warner’s huge content library, including TV and movie giants HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and Warner Bros. This content will undoubtedly boost AT&T’s bundled offering, and the operator has indicated it could find its way to mobile screens via its DirecTV Now mobile app. Look out for 20-minute Game of Thrones mobile episodes on a device near you.
Verizon has been quiet on the ruling, but there are signs that AT&T’s key rival may be moving in a different direction. Verizon recently appointed former Ericsson man Hans Vestberg as their CEO, suggesting their future strategy may be focussed on developing superior mobile networks and 5G, as opposed to further major content acquisitions. Such a change in tack from Verizon would be in stark contrast to AT&T, who are focussed on the massive Time Warner media merger and seems to have been more quiet around their 5G announcements.
This would be quite an about-face from Verizon, who have reportedly shown interest in buying Time Warner, parts of the Fox empire, and Lionsgate (among others) in the past few years. The operator also has a major presence in the online content and advertising sector via Oath (its combined vehicle for AOL and Yahoo!) But if Verizon has decided to put the pursuit of major media acquisitions behind it, it would be free to focus all its efforts on its network and ensuring a superior network experience for its customers.
And what does the approval mean for the US’ other operators? Mainly-cellular players T-Mobile USA and Sprint currently offer little in the way of exclusive content, although this may change if the merger of the companies goes ahead. And that deal itself may be buoyed by the approval of the AT&T/Time Warner acquisition, which potentially signals a softening in US antitrust regulation.