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Industry analysts had expected AT&T to win, but many speculated that the judge would force the company to agree to certain measures. "In the meantime, not only may consumers be harmed directly by the anticompetitive harms that this merger will cause, such as higher bills and fewer choices of programming and provider, but also by the many other mergers it will encourage". It's unusual for the Justice Department to argue that a vertical merger of two companies that aren't direct competitors would limit competition, but the effect that the merger will have on the telecoms and entertainment industry is significant.

Trump, however, repeatedly had blasted the merger, due in no small part to his opposition to CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation's top pay-TV distributor.

At the heart of the DOJ's complaint is an assumption that the merged entity would use its market power to raise the price of content now owned by Time Warner, or threaten to withhold programming, including hit shows such as Game of Thrones and NCAA March Madness.

For this reason, the government was hoping that Leon would at least put conditions on the merger, like requiring the telecom to sell off some of Time Warner's most coveted properties.

The Justice Department, which had sued to block the purchase, has the option of appealing the decision.

The ruling blesses the $85 billion merger, one of the biggest media deals ever.

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Media executives increasingly say content creation and distribution must be married to survive against technology companies like Amazon and Netflix.

"This will be a blockbuster summer for media mergers", said Mary Ann Halford, senior adviser to OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Bloomberg via Getty Images AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson exits federal court in April.

AT&T Inc won approval from a U.S. court on Tuesday to buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, allowing AT&T to compete with internet companies that dominate digital advertising and providing new sources of revenue.

This ruling will likely trigger other media merger attempts, like Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox. The case was held in US District Court for the District of Columbia. "We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative". For instance, AT&T could charge other content providers (including Verizon, which owns HuffPost's parent company, Oath) artificially high prices to air the cable channels it acquired through Time Warner. The government failed to prove that the merger would dampen competition and innovation and raise prices for pay TV, said Daniel Petrocelli, the companies' lead attorney in defending the merger.

President Donald Trump, who has advocated for the blocking of the deal, has criticized CNN for its coverage of his election campaign and his administration.

Some see the decision to challenge the merger as political, something the Justice Department has fiercely denied.


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