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The media landscape is in for a seismic change, no matter what happens to AT&T and Time Warner

Even if a judge rules that the pipe guys can’t buy, the media guys want to sell.

James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox
James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox
Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Here’s a map my colleague Rani Molla and I made earlier this year, showing who owns pretty much everything in the video and TV world, and who’s about to get into that world. People really like it, and we’re pretty proud of it.

Go take one more look at it now:

Image of the media landscape, updated June 11

Got it? Good. Because it’s about to become a relic.

Today, as you have most likely read, we should get a ruling from a federal judge who is reviewing the AT&T/Time Warner deal, which the Trump administration has sued to stop.

If the deal goes through, as you have also likely read, it will trigger a new round of deal-making. Comcast, most notably, has literally put out a press release saying it intends to make a new bid on the 21st Century Fox assets that Disney is already trying to buy.

But even if Judge Richard Leon blocks AT&T/Time Warner — either completely or by attaching conditions AT&T says it can’t live with, like requiring it to sell DirecTV or Turner, which includes CNN — this map is still going to undergo a significant overhaul over the next year.

A ruling that prevents a giant distributor from buying a giant content company may keep a bunch of would-be buyers like Comcast, Verizon and tech companies like Amazon on the sidelines for a bit.

But even if the pipe guys aren’t buying, the media guys are still selling. If they can’t sell to a pipe guy, they’ll sell to each other.

Fox and Disney, for instance, have argued that their deal doesn’t have regulatory problems. And while there are plenty of strong arguments against that assertion — like, say, the problems you create when a single studio owns around 50 percent of the movie market, or when the biggest sports programmer buys even more sports programming — there are people who seem to think that’s true.

One important person in that category: Makan Delrahim, the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust boss, who’s the one suing AT&T to stop the Time Warner deal. Asked last week about Disney/Fox, Delrahim seemed to wave that one through. “They had good advice and carved out surgically ... a transaction that might be doable,” he said. (We should note that Donald Trump also blessed the deal, with less nuance, when it was first announced last year.)

And there are more deals to come: Just about every blue dot on that map is basically in play, one way or another. CBS boss Les Moonves and his boss, Shari Redstone, are in a brutal fight right now, but they agree that both CBS and Viacom, the other media property Redstone owns, need new owners. And the people who run Lionsgate, AMC and the other smallish media companies get pinged by bankers on a regular basis. It’s just a matter of when, whom and what price.

Again: If everyone who’s in the media business wants out, why does anyone want to buy? I put that question to a would-be buyer and a would-be seller last month at the Code Conference, when I interviewed AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. You can read, or watch, their answers for yourself.

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