HBO Blackout Shows Dangers of Media Consolidation

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For the first time in its history, HBO has gone dark during a dispute with a pay TV distributor: DISH Network. HBO is part of WarnerMedia, formerly Time Warner, which is now owned by AT&T, and which also owns DISH rival DirecTV.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“In opposing the AT&T/Time Warner deal, opponents -- including the Department of Justice -- predicted that the newly combined company would have the incentive to withhold content, and would gain stronger leverage in negotiations like this one. That is because AT&T stands to benefit if customers, frustrated by missing their favorite HBO shows, leave DISH to switch to DirecTV. Time Warner, as an independent company, did not have the incentive to hold out on HBO content in these situations before the merger. Now, consumers are the ones paying the price.

“In ruling against the DOJ, Judge Richard Leon dismissed this concern. While it is difficult from the outside to determine the different factors at play in any particular DOJ dispute, the circumstances suggest that the government's case was correct. This is another reason the DC Court of Appeals should reverse the decision allowing the merger.”

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