AT&T distances DirecTV merger from Comcast deal

AT&T’s $48.5 billion bid to buy DirecTV is distinctly different from other major media mergers, especially Comcast’s planned merger with Time Warner Cable, the company claimed in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

The company tried to differentiate its planned deal with Comcast’s $45 billion merger plans, which has attracted loud criticism from many Democrats and public interest advocates.

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Evidence that AT&T will lead to lower TV bills for consumers and lead to more competition in the arena “sets this transaction apart,” it claimed in its 82-page FCC filing.

Critics have claimed that Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable would lead to less competition in the market, because both companies offer the same types of services, though in different areas of the country.

AT&T’s deal with DirecTV would do no such thing, it asserted.

“To begin with, unlike the Comcast/Time Warner Cable transaction, this merger does not add existing broadband assets to AT&T’s broadband network, and thus does not increase AT&T’s market presence in broadband,” AT&T claimed.

Additionally, neither AT&T nor DirecTV own major programming companies, unlike Comcast’s ownership of NBC and its suite of channels.

“Therefore, contrary to some opponents’ claims, the transaction simply does not affect AT&T’s ability to foreclose [Internet-based] providers,” it added.

AT&T has repeatedly claimed that joining forces with DirecTV only makes sense to keep up with people’s demands for cable, TV and phone “bundles.”

AT&T has a robust telephone and Internet service, but its cable TV offerings are limited, it has claimed. DirecTV, meanwhile, offers satellite television but no phone or Internet. 

The proposed merger has attracted less criticism that Comcast's planned deal, though some critics have worried about the growing trend of major media company consolidation.