This weekend, AT&T reached an agreement to buy Time Warner for an amazing $85.4 billion. It means that AT&T which completed a deal to buy DirecTV last year will have control of a massive entertainment company that includes Cartoon Network, Cinemax, CNN, HBO, TBS, TNT and Warner Bros.
In addition, the acquisition includes Turner Sports which has rights to MLB, NBA, NCAA Tournament and the PGA Championship. AT&T distributes programming through its U-Verse cable systems and its DirecTV receivers. If the purchase is approved by government regulatory agencies and right now, it’s a big “if,” it would be on the level of Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal which brought together a huge cable provider and a movie studio.
Both companies have a lot of debt and if the feds sign off on the deal, there will most likely some restrictions placed as Comcast had when it bought NBC.
As for sports, viewers won’t see too many changes. Turner has long-term contracts in place with its three properties, MLB through 2021, NBA through 2025, NCAA through 2032. AT&T through DirecTV has rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market package through 2021.
HBO has live boxing events as well as its Real Sports and Bill Simmons series.
But with a combined AT&T/Time Warner, expect to be even more aggressive for sports rights. ESPN’s rights for Monday Night Football expires after the 2021 season and Turner Sports which lost the NFL after the 1997 season would love to get back into the professional football business.
With AT&T ready to launch a new streaming service, DirecTV Now, the Time Warner channels will be a featured attraction. It will be a rival to Dish’s Sling TV service, Sony’s Playstation Vue and Google’s upcoming YouTube streaming TV programming.
Live sports has an integral part of Sling’s programming so imagine how DirecTV would promote its new streaming service with the Time Warner networks onboard.
If the AT&T purchase of Time Warner is approved, it creates a huge monolith that could trigger other mergers and there’s Disney sitting alone which has been in acquisition mode itself recently buying into MLB’s BAMTech which has created the infrastructure for many streaming services like HBO Now, WWE Network and others.
So this could be interesting to see how this progresses over the next year and where this could lead.