Video services

AT&T Exec Dishes That He's Not So Hot on Rival-Partner Comcast

AT&T doesn't like Comcast much. Or at least John Stankey, senior executive vice president at AT&T, doesn't think very highly of his cable competitor.

Trying to make the argument that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is unlikely to collude with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) in undermining online video services, Stankey noted during trial testimony yesterday that he's not planning to team up with the cable operator because he doesn't like the company to begin with.

The trial, in this case, is the one between AT&T and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ; the one that will decide the fate of the telco's acquisition of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). (See AT&T Likens DoJ Suit to Shaved Persian Cat.)

As Variety reports, Stankey was making the point that AT&T and Comcast are bitter rivals and that the battles they fight regularly make them unlikely to team up as allies in the future.

But are things really that simple?

Just this morning, Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal said that it's joining with Fox, Turner and Viacom in a venture that matches audience data with advertising campaigns. Turner is a subsidiary of Time Warner, and it's under the umbrella of assets that Stankey will oversee if the AT&T merger goes through.

In other words, Time Warner and Comcast are already collaborating, and if AT&T wins in court, it will soon be partnering with Comcast too.

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There's an argument to be made that NBCU partnering with Turner isn't the same thing as AT&T doing side deals with Comcast. But the continued trend toward vertical integration in the pay-TV market makes it harder and harder to distinguish friends from enemies. Where financial incentives demand it, companies that are arch-rivals in one space have shown themselves willing to play nice in another.

The NBCU announcement timing probably isn't what AT&T would have wanted. Stankey has not yet concluded his testimony, and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is on the calendar to take the stand at trial later today.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

mendyk 4/19/2018 | 4:07:30 PM
Re: Nothing to see here Of course, not many of these cases actually end up in court. And this one seems particularly silly if for no other reason -- as many others have pointed out -- Comcast/NBC. That said, some of the arguments being advanced by AT&T and Time Warner seem a bit lame.
Phil_Britt 4/19/2018 | 4:02:13 PM
Re: Nothing to see here As you said, the court is supposed to ignore actual ongoing collaboration, but that may or may not have been an issue in the court's eyes -- the courts have allowed all but a very slim number of mergers to go through for several years.
mendyk 4/19/2018 | 3:51:43 PM
Re: Nothing to see here In this specific case, the court is supposed to ignore actual ongoing collaboration because "we don't like them." Uh huh.
Phil_Britt 4/19/2018 | 3:46:58 PM
Re: Nothing to see here They will work together if both can profit -- maybe. Remember Supercomm disbanded in part because the partners couldn't agree on revenue split.
mendyk 4/19/2018 | 2:44:58 PM
Nothing to see here "Those aren't spots," said The Leopard.
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