AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson took the witness stand Thursday to preach the benefits in store if his company is allowed to finalize its $85 billion deal for Time Warner, which the Justice Department is attempting to block.
According to The Washington Post, Stephenson fired back the DOJ’s antitrust concerns, which he called “absurd.” He said that allowing AT&T to buy Time Warner would in turn let AT&T grow its data-driven advertising business, which could allow the provider to charge consumers less for access to DirecTV and its related products.
Stephenson said that missing out on Time Warner would be the same as missing out on a technology cycle, which might not kill AT&T but “will make you sick for a very long time."
An example of a lower-cost options for consumers surfaced when Stephenson unveiled AT&T’s plans to launch a streaming service called AT&T Watch. The service, a $15-per-month TV offering with no sports, is coming soon and will be free for AT&T’s unlimited wireless customers.
Beyond just pay-TV, Stephenson detailed digital advertising aspirations that AT&T could achieve by owning Time Warner. He said by pushing Time Warner content like CNN, TBS, TNT and HBO out toward mobile devices, AT&T could better compete against Google and Facebook for digital advertising dollars.
Leading up to the trial, Stephenson made similar comments about AT&T needing more scale to fend off surging media players like Amazon and Netflix.
Stephenson in February told CNBC that concerns about AT&T-Time Warner having too much control over content creation and distribution lose some merit in light of what companies like Amazon and Netflix have been able to do.
“There’s this concern about vertical integration, having everything from content creation, content aggregation to content distribution,” Stephenson told CNBC. “Reality is, the biggest distributor of content out there is totally vertically integrated. This happens to be somebody called Netflix. They create original content, they aggregate original content and they distribute original content. They have 100 million subscribers. Look at Amazon; they’re doing the exact same thing.”