It appears that the last hurdles in front of the AT&T purchase of satellite provider DirecTV are about to be cleared. According to various media reports, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has recommended the agency vote to approve the deal. In addition, the Justice Department has said it would not block the new company saying it was not in violation of anti-trust laws.
All that awaits is the rest of the FCC board of commissioners to vote on the merger and it appears that Wheeler has enough support of the five member panel to get it passed. And a vote seems to be just days away.
So as AT&T is positioned to become the nation’s largest pay-TV provider, what does this mean for sports? With AT&T U-Verse subscribers having access to Pac-12 Networks, does this mean that DirecTV customers will finally see the channels on their systems? DirecTV has remained steadfast in its refusal to pick up Pac-12 Networks citing their cost and number of channels. We’ll see if DirecTV eases on its position and decides to pick up Pac-12 Networks with AT&T in charge.
And as DirecTV has exclusivity with NFL Sunday Ticket, will the satellite provider open up its out-of-market package to all AT&T wireless customers so they can watch football games on their cell phones? This has been one of the proposals that was floated last year and still remains a possibility once the deal is finalized.
In addition to its live sports programming, DirecTV has a popular daily six-hour block of talk shows with Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen that will be unaffected under the AT&T merger.
The deal became more valuable when DirecTV renewed its contract for NFL Sunday Ticket last year.
Over the last few weeks, AT&T officials have been hashing out terms of the new company to the FCC, one of which includes providing affordable high-speed internet service in low-income communities.
AT&T will gain access to DirecTV’s Latin American market where the provider has subscribers in all over South America and Mexico. In addition, AT&T can also focus more as a TV programmer instead of on its cell phone business which has been more cutthroat than television.
The AT&T-DirecTV deal was announced last year shortly after Comcast and Time Warner Cable unveiled their plans to merge. But unlike the Comcast-Time Warner deal which was opposed on several levels including from the FCC and Justice, competing cable providers and business leaders and was eventually killed, AT&T-DirecTV sailed through the regulatory process without much trouble.
Once the FCC signs off on the deal, it’s expected the new AT&T corporation complete with DirecTV will close within a couple of months. The new company would be based out of AT&T’s headquarters in Houston, however, DirecTV’s operations would remain in Southern California.
More details about the company will be released in the coming months. And we’ll find out whether Pac-12 Networks will finally come to DirecTV and if AT&T Wireless customers will gain access to the NFL Sunday Ticket package.