As you probably know by now, AT&T is trying really hard to buy Time Warner.
Why? Well, the mobile business isn’t what it used to be, and people are fleeing for other carriers. If the company buys Time Warner, they would be able to diversify their business and be more than just a telecommunications company. They would be a media company, too,
That’s good for them and all, but what does it mean for you, the consumer? A lot, actually.
They could potentially make streaming cable channels even easier.
AT&T owns DirecTV, which launches their internet-only streaming cable package in late November. Like competitors Playstation Vue and Sling, this service will let you watch cable channels without owning a cable box. If AT&T buys Time Warner (owners of CNN, HBO, etc.), they’ll be able to potentially offer this streaming service at a more competitive price, forcing other like services to play ball if they want Time Warner content.
It could be a bad thing for net neutrality.
Net neutrality basically states that the internet should not be limited or restricted in any way by internet service providers. In some cases, though, service providers have been making their services more favorable to use by not counting them against things like data caps.
For instance, if you have a DirecTV streaming package (owned by AT&T) and AT&T for home internet, your DirecTV streaming won’t count against your monthly data usage. If you used Netflix, however, it will. AT&T could do something like making HBO Now (a Time Warner service) not count against their home internet caps, which would be anti-competitive because it would favor one service (theirs) over another.
AT&T will have more ways to sell you advertisements.
AT&T already tracks their users’ watching habits on U-Verse and DirecTV to show them specific ads during commercial breaks. They also track web browsing patterns as much as they can to further tailor these ads across different devices. If they buy Time Warner, you might see targeted ads when watching CNN. And who knows? They could even add advertisements to HBO!
HBO could become an AT&T exclusive.
Right now, however, HBO is available to anyone, with or without cable. With an AT&T acquisition, however, certain features (like streaming on mobile) could be closed off to AT&T customers and incentivized with a discount on the subscription. So if you wanted to watch Game of Thrones on the go, you might have to switch mobile carriers. Mind the fact that this would piss a lot of people off and lose tons of subscribers. It would be a terrible business decision, but it could happen.
They could make comic books more expensive.
Actually, this might just be a bummer for me. Still, when Disney bought Marvel Comics, they increased the standard price per issue from $2.99 to $3.99. The Time Warner-owned DC, the best-selling comic book company (as of this month), currently sells most comic books for $2.99 each. DC is a niche business in the grand scheme of Time Warner’s operations, but if AT&T — a company bigger than Disney — buys them, what would stop them from squeezing out that extra $1?
Remember: these are all hypotheticals. AT&T hasn’t come out and said they’re going to change HBO, CNN, and jack up the price of Batman. Yet they’re trying to acquire Time Warner for the sake of making an extra few (billion) bucks, and they aren’t afraid of changing popular things to make even more money. At the end of the day, they’re a telecommunications business, first and foremost, and telecom companies are known for limiting consumer choice, playing fast and loose with pricing, and generally pissing the customer off.
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