clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

AT&T can buy Time Warner. What does that mean for everyone else?

“This is going to reshape the media world,” Recode’s Peter Kafka says.

A character from the HBO show “Silicon Valley” writes on a whiteboard.

After U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that AT&T could buy Time Warner, likely ending a lawsuit brought against the companies by the U.S. Justice Department, everything changed.

“Anyone who had any concerns about whether a media merger would be blessed is now assuming they can go ahead and buy whatever they want,” Recode’s Peter Kafka said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.

Most immediately, the ruling prompted Comcast to make a $65 billion bid for 21st Century Fox, which Disney had been publicly courting at a lower price. And any other tech giants like Verizon, Charter or Amazon that might have had qualms about big M&A can now start sniffing around media companies if they want to mirror AT&T’s planned marriage of distribution and content once it owns Time Warner’s channels, such as HBO, TNT and TBS.

“Now you can go ahead and do it,” Kafka said. “It doesn’t mean they will. Verizon may not buy a media company for Verizon-specific reasons … but anyone who was thinking about this really no longer has to worry about, ‘Can this deal get through regulators?’ Right now, go for it.”

Among the three companies noted above, he predicted that Amazon might be the first to explore a big, game-changing content company acquisition.

“I think everything they’ve done to now is still them playing around, and they’re stopping and starting,” Kafka said. “They’re the ones who go, ‘We are a technology company, but fundamentally, we sell stuff to consumers. We use tech to do it. We’re less hung up on the idea that we’re a platform.’”

You can listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Kafka also talked about the broader implications for consumers of these mega media mergers. In particular, he called out the FCC’s coinciding repeal of net neutrality, which took effect on Monday, June 11.

“You should be wary when all the stuff you like to consume and/or need to consume or think is important to democracy to consume starts getting owned by a smaller group of people,” he said in reference to Disney or Comcast buying Fox. “That has been happening for decades, but now it’s really going to acclerate. It’s worrisome.”

“And by the way, this is all happening while net neutrality is now officially off the books,” Kafka added. “So when you have a big content company combining with a distribution company, there’s even more temptation to make it more difficult not to consume rival content.”

Or, to borrow an analogy from “30 Rock,” there’s even more temptation to make corn chips that cause indigestion:

If you like this podcast, make sure to check out our others:

Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.