Billionaire Mark Cuban wants us to believe that the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner will, get this, lead to “more competition.”
Cuban, who has appeared in ads for AT&T (although he says he’s no longer paid by them), argued to TechCrunch that Google, Amazon, and Facebook are “dominating digital content” while “AT&T and Time Warner lag way behind.” In addition, he claims that entertainment properties owned by Time Warner, like HBO and Warner Brothers, deserve a chance to more efficiently develop their online content. “Traditional content needs help transitioning to compete with app-driven content,” he argued.
This position puts Cuban at odds with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom have expressed disapproval of the merger. “AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few," Trump told a rally on Sunday. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon called for careful regulation, arguing “in general, we think that marketplace competition is a good and healthy thing for consumers and so there’s a number of questions and concerns that arise in that vein about this announced deal but there’s still a lot of information that needs to come out before, before any conclusions should be reached. Certainly, [Clinton] thinks that regulators should scrutinize it closely.”
In the interview, Cuban expressed hope that the merger would be approved by regulators. That wish may be granted, as Reuters reported earlier today that Time Warner only owns one broadcast station (WPCH-TV in Atlanta) that is FCC regulated, which means they could bypass FCC oversight altogether if they sell that. While it’s unknown whether Cuban was aware of this, his reasoning to TechCrunch was that the merger between AT&T and Time Warner “isn’t as impactful” as Facebook’s purchases of Whatsapp or Instagram (which compete with Cuban’s own messaging service, Dust).
Cuban would know a thing or two about media mergers, since he become a billionaire in the late 1990s after his company Broadcast.com was purchased by Yahoo! for $1.7 billion in stock.