Sling TV's Warren Schlichting: AT&T-Time Warner deal may lead to ‘severe bleeding’ of subscribers

Sling TV Group President Warren Schlichting. (Image: Dish Network)

Sling TV Group President Warren Schlichting testified Monday as a government witness, telling a Washington, D.C., federal court that an $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner Inc. would render the latter with too much leverage.

Schlichting said that the Dish Network-owned virtual MVPD already struggles with Time Warner to negotiate carriage deals. He described current talks as a “mutual headlock.” 

Should Time Warner integrate with the top pay TV operator, he said, the programming conglomerate’s top channel group, Turner Networks, could afford to simply walk away if it wasn’t getting the carriage terms it wanted. 

“For them it’s a temporary blip if things don’t go well,” Schlichting said. However, Sling would lose massive numbers of subscribers if they didn’t have access to Turner networks including CNN, TNT and TBS. 

“It would be severe bleeding,” Schlichting testified. 

Schlichting’s comments were reported by Bloomberg and numerous other outlets. 

RELATED: Cox’s Fenwick ‘very concerned’ about ‘horribly ugly’ AT&T-Time Warner deal

The Dish executive’s testimony followed a government witness appearance late last week by Cox Communications program acquisition executive Suzanne Fenwick, who also argued that the deal would hurt the negotiation posture of rival pay TV operators. 

The Justice Department is suing AT&T, seeking to block what it deems a horizontal merger of a distributor and program supplier. 

For his part, Schlichting is also scheduled to testify today. His testimony was cut short Monday when it was revealed that he had been furnished with an illicit copy of transcripts from last week’s testimony—the judge had specifically ordered witnesses not to see those documents. 

Turner Networks CEO John Martin is scheduled to follow Schlichting onto the stand.