Turner and Hulu CEOs discuss pending company deals at CES

Las Vegas, Nev. — Turner CEO John Martin and Hulu CEO Randy Freer recently discussed the pending deals between Time Warner Cable and AT&T, as well as Disney and Fox, during a keynote discussion at CES moderated by Global Media Editor at Financial Times Matthew Garrahan.

AT&T agreed to purchase Time Warner for $85.4 billion in October 2016, marking one of the largest mergers in U.S. history. In November 2017, however, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to prevent AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner on the grounds that the merged company “likely would … use its control of Time Warner’s popular programming as a weapon to harm competition.”

“In the history of the U.S., no vertical merger that looks like this has ever been blocked,” Martin said. “This would be a new precedent that we’re anticipating won’t happen.”

AT&T and Warner recently pushed the termination date for the deal to June 21 as the companies go to trial on March 19. “The deal was announced 15, 16 months ago,” Martin said. “At this point, I think everybody wants a little clarity.” Despite these drawbacks, Martin maintained optimism that the deal would eventually close.

“What a lot of people don’t understand — and frankly this is what I think the government is missing as it relates to looking at these mergers in a backward-looking way—is we’re competing in the land of the giants,” Martin said. “If you don’t think Facebook and Google and Amazon are the land of the giants, think again.”

Meanwhile, last month, Disney set a deal to purchase 20th Century Fox for $52.4 billion, making it potentially a majority owner of Hulu. Freer seemed unfazed about the future of Hulu once the deal finalizes. “We get to ignore all the noise,” he said. “We’re right in the middle of everything.”

On a lighter note, Freer commented on the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale recent win at the 2018 Golden Globe for best TV series in the drama category. “Now, everyone believes we can aspire to set a much higher bar,” Freer said.

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