AT&T, DirecTV execs pitch merger at FCC

Top executives at AT&T and DirecTV made the rounds at the Federal Communications Commission this week to sell commissioners and their staff on the companies’ proposed $49 billion merger.

According to public filings, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson, DirecTV chief Michael White and other officials met individually with four of the FCC’s five commissioners and their staffs to make the case for approving the deal.

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The two company heads “stressed the public benefits that the proposed combination would bring to the market,” AT&T chief privacy office Robert Quinn wrote in the filing

Among the benefits, they told the FCC, was infrastructure that would allow about 15 million mostly rural people to have high-speed Internet access, due to the money that would be saved by combining the two firms. Subscribers would also be able to choose “bundles” of service like TV, phone and Internet, they said, and the companies promised to abide by the now-vacated FCC regulations on net neutrality, which require Internet service providers to treat all online content equally.

DirecTV, executives added, is currently “disadvantaged in competing for consumers” who are looking for those kinds of bundles because it only offers satellite TV service. AT&T’s TV service, meanwhile, is limited and unprofitable.  

“By achieving the anticipated merger synergies and by enabling an effective bundle of broadband/video services in more areas, the combined company will fill the gaps in each company’s respective service portfolios,” Quinn wrote in the filing.

The visit to FCC headquarters came within hours of the two executives’ double-header grilling on the merger on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers were largely welcoming to the executives’ proposal on Tuesday, but some nonetheless feared that a trend of consolidation in the media marketplace would be bad for consumers.

AT&T and DirecTV executives met with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn on Monday and Commissioners Jessica RosenworcelAjit Pai and Michael O’Rielly on Wednesday. 

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