The very newsiest session here at the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.D Live conference is surely the one featuring AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes talking about the phone company's planned $85 billion acquisition of the media giant.
Some highlights of the interview, conducted by the Journal's Rebecca Blumenstein:
• Stephenson said that owning Time Warner will let AT&T drive down costs for consumers—such as the upcoming DirecTV Now, a $35/month streaming service—because it's a vertical merger rather than a horizontal one with another wireless company.
• He also said that the deal isn't anti-competitive because "when we wake up after this deal is approved, the wireless market will look exactly the same as it does today, and the media market will look exactly the same as it does today."
• AT&T wants to use Time Warner to do things that media companies have tried to avoid, such as breaking up channel bundles into a la carte offerings: "We're going to try to touch these third rails."
• The two companies have a "Magna Carta" that states that Time Warner will sell content to others, and AT&T will distribute others' content.
• Bewkes said that the market could use an advertising player that's big enough to compete with Google and Facebook: "We all need more competition in advertising—there's a growing concentration in a duology."
• He also praised AT&T's ability to let Time Warner content reach large numbers of consumers without a middleman: "AT&T offers that huge scale of a direct selling platform. Direct consumer relationships.
• Stephenson said that so much has changed since Comcast acquired NBCUniversal that some of the concerns about concentrating so much power in one communications/media company no longer apply: "Netflix is probably going to be OK." HM