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Paul Zimmerman

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AT&T/DirecTV Merger Likely A Big Win for Advertisers and Sports Fans

The AT&T/DirecTV merger has not only given local sports fans (like this writer) hope that they will soon see their favorite teams on the air again but it has also spurred advertisers and their agencies to consider how to maximize their clients’ interests in the now seismically altered television and digital landscape.

DirecTV has historically boasted a strong lineup of sports channels and packages, including the much celebrated, all-encompassing NFL Sunday Ticket. However, DirecTV has placed less of an emphasis on sports channels and packages in the past few years. With many teams and leagues forming their own networks, and the rising costs of content, DirecTV decided not to carry the Pac-12 Networks (home to UCLA and USC sports) or SportsNet LA (home to the Dodgers). Needless to say, DirecTV’s failure to carry those networks has drawn the ire of many sports fans, but the July 24 approval of the AT&T/DirecTV merger may be a game-changer.

The $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T creates the world’s largest Pay TV Company. To get the Federal Communications Commission regulators onboard, AT&T has agreed to broaden Internet services, particularly in rural areas, offer Internet package discounts to low income users, and refrain from implementing caps on bandwidth usage. 

There’s a high probability that this merger could lead to a carriage deal for PAC-12 Networks, as they are a corporate partner of AT&T U-verse. At the July 30 Pac-12 Football Media Day, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he is delighted AT&T now owns DirecTV and is confident the Pac-12 Networks will be a priority. Scott added he does not know when the Pac-12 Networks will appear on DirecTV – presumably every effort will be made to strike a deal in time for the start of football season. Adding the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA is also rumored to be on the post-merger “to do” list. For now, DirecTV carrying these channels seems less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.” And when that time comes, advertisers on those networks will be able to reach millions more sports crazed viewers. 

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.