If you’re interested in reading the suit the Federal government has brought against AT&T to block its merger with Time Warner, what is represented as a scanned copy of it that I have read is available here. My intention with this post is to share some thoughts about this action rather than delve into anti-trust law, and I used the document to get the main justification the government is using to block the sale.
The summary of the document basically says that if the merger is completed that it would raise prices for consumers, limit choice by allowing AT&T to leverage Direct TV, which is the largest distributor of media content in the world, to block rival content.
It’s a statement that appears to me to view the proposed merger solely in the context of dinosaur media distribution consisting of cable and satellite television programming providers. It may even be a valid argument in that context alone, but as several years a cord cutter, I can matter-of-factly say that the proposed merger has no impact on me at all. My entire point rests on the fact that there have been a number of recent innovations in programming delivery technologies that make the government’s case built around the overly mature content delivery landscape somewhat beside the point.
The cable/satellite subscription content delivery paradigm is breathing its last few breaths on the backs of customers who are likely as of yet unaware that suitable and more cost effective alternatives exist, most of which are provided ala cart style where one pays for only what they want to watch rather than paying outsized prices for bundles that include a multitude of programming that goes unused. At the end of my cable TV subscription several years ago, I had at my fingertips something on the order of 150 channels and only a small fraction of those did I ever really care about. I truly felt trapped into paying for channels I didn’t want while being as inundated with commercials on every channel as on broadcast TV even though I paid a subscription fee. I hated nearly everything about my TV arrangement, especially the bill. Though since having cable TV available consistently from about age 10, having it all disconnected was a little uncomfortable at first, but I am very pleased at having freed myself from it and I do not plan to ever look back.
The experience of finding other things to watch taught me that I don’t need CNN or any of the other mainstream crap that was foisted on me at my expense when there is an entire internet full of competition that in many instances is of better quality without taxing so much of my time trying sell me laundry detergent, auto insurance, or Medicare giveaways because I pay them directly for content. If the situation changes, and the internet channels to which I currently subscribe do start overtaxing my time with public messages I can just move on and buy subscriptions from others that don’t. It’s that simple. I get only what I want, and my money does have at least some power to influence what I get for it. My life as a media consumer has never been so good with so many things to choose from without having to be tied down to and pay for things that aren’t of value to me run by people who do not understand nor care what my money means to me.
I’d say that the AT&T/Time Warner merger is not only overpriced for a dying paradigm, but also of little consequence in the longer run. The government should allow it to go forward if only for the purpose of allowing AT&T to leverage its new purchase with monopolistic intent that is likely have the unintended consequence of pounding the last few nails into dinosaur media’s coffin.