Closing arguments made in AT&T-Time Warner merger trial

Closing arguments made in AT&T-Time Warner merger trial
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The two sides in the trial over the AT&T-Time Warner merger squared off in court for the final time on Monday, offering closing arguments in the landmark antitrust case.

The Justice Department said that the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger would remake the television industry, giving the combined company the ability to use popular Time Warner content to hurt rival pay-TV providers.

Both sides mainly summarized the points they had made over the past six weeks of trial. Judge Richard Leon pledged to issue a ruling by June 12 in order to beat a June 21 merger deadline that the companies are facing.

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In his closing remarks, Craig Conrath of the Justice Department said that AT&T having control over Time Warner content would change all of AT&T's industry relationships. He said Time Warner's content would be used as leverage over providers who see assets like HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS as essential to attracting customers.

"They'll be a gatekeeper to the content their rivals need," Conrath said.

The prosecutor said AT&T has plenty of incentive to hurt competitors in the pay-TV market, and that gaining control over Time Warner content will give them the ability to do so.

AT&T's lawyers have rejected that theory, insisting that it wants Time Warner's programming distributed as widely as possible to drive up the value of advertising.

Daniel Petrocelli, AT&T’s lead attorney in the case, used his closing argument to attack the credibility of the government’s case and its expert witnesses. Petrocelli said the economic models that prosecutors cited to prove the harm the merger poses were unreliable and didn’t reflect the reality of the business world.

“This whole case is a house of cards,” Petrocelli said. He added of the Justice Department’s theories, “This model makes no sense.”

Merging the two companies, Petrocelli argued, would allow them to better compete in an evolving marketplace and vie for online advertising revenue by using consumer data to create targeted ads.

“AT&T has the [consumer] data but it doesn’t have the advertising inventory,” he said. “You put the two together and it’s a perfect match.”

Updated at 4:54 p.m.