State attorneys general will probe AT&T/DirecTV merger

An attorneys general probe involving two-dozen states that is examining the legality of Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) has been expanded to include AT&T's (NYSE: T) proposed acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), Reuters reports.

Citing unnamed sources close to the probe, the news service says these states are working with the U.S. Justice Department to interview both critics and proponents of the deals. New York, California and Florida were the only states confirmed by Reuters as being part of this probe.

UPDATE: Serving to confirm Reuters report, Bloomberg quoted the Florida Attorney General's Office as saying the probe is specifically concerned with antitrust issues

The report belies another exclusive story put out by the New York Post in late-August, which said the Justice Department and AT&T had already reached a settlement agreement to greenlight the deal.

One of the factors being looked at is the impact to content licensors by having the four largest pay-TV services merge into two, the report says. The impact on high-speed broadband is also being examined.

"We look forward to discussions with these state attorneys generals on the significant consumer benefits created by this merger," AT&T said in a statement, responding to the report.

It's not unusual for attorneys general to coordinate with the DOJ when a major corporate merger affects consumers in their state.

While drawing far less controversy than Comcast's proposed $45 billion acquisition of TWC, AT&T's proposed $49 billion buy of DirecTV has generated anti-trust concerns. A quarter of the more than 5 million homes in which AT&T provides U-verse TV video services also have access to DirecTV—a competitive environment that would dissipate in a union of the two companies.

For more:
- read this Reuters story

Related links:
AT&T, DirecTV officials make merger pitch in back-to-back congressional hearings
AT&T-DirecTV merger may provide much needed cover for Comcast
AT&T, DirecTV merger will reignite 'regulated duopolies' issue

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