AT&T CEO: Congressional Concerns Over WarnerMedia Sale ‘Unfounded’

On the heels of concerns from some Democrat lawmakers regarding AT&T’s $43 billion minority stake asset sale of WarnerMedia to Discovery, the telecom’s CEO said the issues presented by lawmakers are “unfounded,” but expected for a mega merger that includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner and the parent of HGTV and other media brands.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Rep. David Cicilline (RI), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) and 29 other Congressional members sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the DOJ to examine whether the merger would reduce diverse content in a more consolidated and less competitive market.

“I believe the context of our discussion with regulators up to this point has centered around those [diversity] issues, and we feel very good about the data we put on the table that have, it’s clearly indicated that there’s nothing unusual about this transaction,” Stankey told the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference on Dec. 6.

Castro contends there remains a lack of diversity of people of color in media. The lawmaker cited a 2021 analysis by the Latino Donor Collaborative found that Latinos account for less than 3% of TV show leads, showrunners and directors.

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“Latinos are nearly 20% of the U.S. population, one-in-five Americans, but we’re almost invisible on-screen and behind the camera,” Castro wrote in the letter.

Stankey said issues involving minority representation may have been relative to past media mergers, but not so today.

“I would also tell you that those [Congressional] letters … are not very strong in the foundation of their concerns, nor do I have concerns about what they’re articulating in terms of our ability to navigate through that,” Stankey said.

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