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Monday, June 12, 2017

Playing Chicken on a Monumental Level

Time Warner is the parent company of CNN and HBO among other enterprises.  It is also a sponsor of the Shakespeare in the Park series in New York that is currently running a version of Julius Caesar that depicts the assassination of Julius Caesar as the murder of President Donald Trump.  After the opening performance, two of the three main sponsors of the program pulled out; they stated that the performance was inappropriate and that they did not wish to be associated with it.  Today, Time Warner made clear that it would remain a supporter.  On CNN, non-theater critic Fareed Zakaria declared the play a "masterpiece."  Now it is true that Zakaria's view of a dramatic performance is about as important as my dog's views regarding opera.  Nevertheless, those views are on CNN for all to see and hear.

Time Warner is certainly allowed to support whatever it wants.  CNN is free to render whatever "critical" view of the drama it wants.  But Time Warner is playing a monumental game of chicken.  Right now, the proposed merger between Time Warner and AT&T is under review by the federal government.  During the campaign, when the merger was first announced, then candidate Trump said that his first reaction to that merger was negative in that it would put too much market power into the hands of one company.  The President has stayed silent since then on the merits of this merger, but he would be well within his rights to ask the relevant federal agencies to deny approval for that merger.  There is, after all, a substantial number of people who think that the AT&T/Time Warner combination should be blocked on anti-trust grounds.  By pushing such an anti-Trump play, Time Warner is possibly going to get a negative outcome for its merger plans.

We will have to wait to see what happens.  My own view is that a merger between such a major transmission company (AT&T) with a huge content company (Time Warner) takes vertical integration too far.  It ought to be blocked.  Of course, I also think that Amazon should be broken up by the federal government because it has been misusing its monopoly power for quite some time now.  That hasn't happened yet either.

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