What asked about the potential changes we can expect from the marriage– read Deadline exclusively heard back in that August that AT&T could unload CNN and TMZ after the merger–Stephenson emphasized “We’re mindful that we’re buying a business that we don’t have a lot of experience in. We think it’s a really important part of an equation that we are trying to put together. I have full recognition and self awareness that I’m not a media tycoon…we’ll be very careful about how we structure the business.”
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As such Stephenson mentioned that even though changes are inevitable, he attends to keep key management in place given how Time Warner boasts “pretty well-run businesses…When you pay a big premium for high quality assets, the first priority is don’t screw up the businesses you’re buying.” That goes for CNN and Jeff Zucker too per Stephenson. “CNN is having a lot of success. They’re doing well in the marketplace. Our objective to try to keep management teams in place at businesses that are running well.”
The final federal regulatory clearance for AT&T and Time Warner is expected in a few months. Still moderator Stephanie Metha asked whether President Donald Trump’s opposition to the merger and rivalry with CNN would impact the deal.
Said Stephenson, “I don’t know what the relevance of CNN is in terms of an antitrust review. The Department of Justice is reviewing and going through the normal process. They tend to like vertical integration. I fail to understand how anything to do with CNN effects anti-competitive opportunities. I don’t anticipate that being an issue.”
Essentially, per Stephenson an AT&T and Time Warner union would combine the latter’s huge ad inventory with the consumer data from DirecTV and AT&T’s wireless services. Because DirectTV offers highly targeted audience intel to advertisers, they’re able to charge 3x the ad rates of Turner. In turn, Turner networks will be able to reap the benefits of such data in their ad sales.
In addition, the AT&T chief told today’s crowd that he receives hate mail for the times he’s spoken out, i.e. the anti-transgender rights bathroom bill that he helped rally opposition against in Texas, as well as getting the Boy Scouts of America–an org he presides over as president– to accept gay youths.
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