AT&T will have to wait a bit longer for GoT fix

The AT&T and Time Warner celebrations have been put on hold for a short period as the two companies have filed an extension for the closing of the merger with the SEC.

It was never going to be quick and easy, but it has been a much smoother ride than some of the executives and lawyers might have predicted. There of course have been a few hurdles and some vocal opposition, most notably from President Trump, but a deal in the region of $100 billion was always going to have a few bumps. That said, so far so good.

The pair have not outlined how long the delay will be, simply putting a relatively open statement out into the ether, though there has been a vague reference to some point prior to the end of the year. In any case, it should be before the beginning of the final Game of Thrones season.

Alongside the filing, the team has also announced it has received regulatory approval from the Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (CADE), which was the penultimate hurdle. With the Brazilians falling into line, AT&T has now received all the approvals necessary outside of the US to complete the deal.

“We appreciate the hard work by CADE to review and evaluate the AT&T-Time Warner merger and approve it based on its benefits to Brazilian consumers,” said David McAtee, General Counsel at AT&T.

While there will be few complaints from the AT&T business, who would have thought it would have been this easy so far, the completion of the deal will not come soon enough. Aside from removing a considerable distraction, the video and content business does look like it needs a bit of a shot in the arm.

In another SEC filing a couple of weeks ago, AT&T revealed everything wasn’t going as planned as it’s move to capture cord cutters with DirecTV Now wasn’t going exactly as planned. The team are certainly collecting customers, but at a smaller price, and the number of customers heading to the exit is exceeding the new ones by quite a bit. Neither a particularly positive sign.

That said, we should not be particularly surprised. The original content offerings of the OTTs who instigated the cord cutting euphoria are simply better than what the telcos can offer. Organically growing a content business at a telco will be a difficult job; it’s a different culture, environment and mindset. Perhaps the only way to compete in the nitty gritty world of content is through acquisition; it’s a horrible thing to admit but the differences between the telco board room and Hollywood are quite considerable.

The Time Warner deal will certainly add a new dimension to the AT&T business, even if it has to wait a bit longer, but let’s hope AT&T executives don’t try to apply the telco business model, risk appetite, culture or expectations on the Time Warner team. If so, this could prove to be one of the more costly mistakes made by a telco in recent years.

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