AT&T Announces Deal to Acquire DirecTV

Posted at 5:42 PM, May 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-18 17:43:25-04
The AT&T logo is seen on the company’s headquarters in San A

(File photo/Getty Images)

(CNN, May 18, 2014) — AT&T said Sunday that it had agreed to acquire America’s biggest satellite television provider, DirecTV, in a deal worth almost $50 billion.

The boards of the two companies met on Sunday to approve the plan.

“This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens — mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes. At the same time, it creates immediate and long-term value for our shareholders,” said Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, in a statement.

He described DirecTV as the “best option” for AT&T “because they have the premier brand in pay TV, the best content relationships, and a fast-growing Latin American business.”

The combination of AT&T (TFortune 500) and DirecTV (DTVFortune 500), if approved by regulators, will continue a wave of consolidation in the television and telecommunications industries. Comcast (CCV), the nation’s biggest cable provider, is currently awaiting regulatory approval for its plan to merge with Time Warner Cable(TWCFortune 500). And the parent company of wireless provider Sprint, SoftBank(SFTBF), is trying to buy T-Mobile (TMUS).

Before the deal was announced on Sunday afternoon, CNNMoney viewed portions of a internal presentation extolling the virtues of the deal for shareholders of the two companies. The slideshow’s veracity was corroborated by one of the people who prepared it.

The transaction “creates content distribution leader across mobile, video and broadband platforms,” one of the slides of the presentation says.

The presentation uses codenames like “Project Star” for the AT&T-DirecTV acquisition. It says that the two companies face “competitive disadvantages over time” and will be better able to compete as a combined entity. For example, DirecTV’s satellites can’t provide the kind of high-speed Internet connections that consumers increasingly demand, but AT&T can.

In a sentence that seemed written for the Washington regulators that will review the deal, the presentation asserts that the combined company will be able to provide Internet access in areas where it currently doesn’t. Blanket access to the Internet has been a priority of the Obama administration.

The presentation predicts that the DirecTV acquisition will “pass muster” with regulators. That is no surprise, since the companies wouldn’t move forward unless they thought it would be approved.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on talks between the two companies on May 1. BuzzFeed reported on Saturday that the two companies could announce the deal on Sunday.

Comcast’s mid-February announcement about merging with Time Warner Cable refocused attention on what the country’s two big satellite distributors — DirecTV andDish Network (DISHFortune 500)– might do. Many analysts thought the most likely response was a tie-up of DirecTV and Dish. AT&T stepped up instead.

Stephenson recently called the Comcast-Time Warner Cable combination an “industry redefining deal” that “creates an impressive business.” Now it’s his turn to attempt something similar.