WASHINGTON Dec 7 AT&T Inc Chief Executive
Officer Randall Stephenson told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that
his company's planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner
Inc would increase innovation, bring "better-priced
options" to consumers
and "reshape the competitive landscape."
"By owning Time Warner content, we will be able to innovate
more quickly, experiment more readily, tweak our offerings as we
gauge customer response and bring consumers the options they
seek," Stephenson said at a Senate hearing.
Senator Mike Lee, a Republican who chairs the panel that
held the hearing, said the antitrust review by the U.S. Justice
Department would be "very fact-intensive."
"Consumer welfare is maximized by protecting competition,
not necessarily by protecting competitors," Lee said.
The Justice Department will determine whether the deal is
legal under antitrust law. If the agency decides to stop a deal,
it must convince a judge to agree.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary
Committee's antitrust panel, expressed concern that the deal
would create incentives for AT&T to refuse to license Time
Warner content to competitors. She also said AT&T could favor
its own movies and television shows over independent content.
Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network and the Warner
Bros film studio.
Stephenson said at a New York conference on Tuesday that the
Justice Department had begun reviewing the deal, which was
announced in October. "This obviously will require extensive
analysis," he said.
The Federal Communications Commission would also review the
deal if AT&T decides to assume any of Time Warner's licenses, he
"They own a number of licenses here and there, everything
from walkie-talkie, wireless licenses to satellite licenses on
bands for CNN," he said.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, whose administration will
decide whether to approve the merger, had said during the
campaign that it should be blocked.
Stephenson told Reuters before the hearing that he had no
contact with Trump.
Billionaire investor Mark Cuban told the Senate panel that
the merger would create another competitor against large
companies like Apple Inc, Google, Microsoft
Corp, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc.
"Delivering content to consumers in this app-driven world
is not easy," he said in written testimony. "Alone, it will be
very difficult, if not impossible for either AT&T or Time Warner
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa