WASHINGTON — AT&T’s John Stankey, who will be in charge of the unit overseeing Warner Bros., HBO and Turner networks if the Time Warner merger goes through, took the stand at the antitrust trial and gave what was certainly the irreverent quote of the day.
“I don’t like Comcast,” he said on Wednesday, adding, “I’m not going to cooperate with someone I don’t like.”
AT&T-Time Warner’s lead counsel, Daniel Petrocelli, had asked Stankey about one of the government’s arguments for blocking the $85 billion merger. That is the possibility that they will coordinate with another media giant, Comcast-NBCUniversal, to undermine emerging online multichannel services like Dish’s Sling and Google’s YouTube TV.
His point was that AT&T already has had a number of disputes with Comcast or, as Stankey said, “We do battle with them all the time.”
Stankey has been tasked by AT&T with guiding the merger transition, and he has been present throughout the trial to watch the proceedings.
In another part of his testimony, Stankey outlined what his team has identified as $2.5 billion in cost and revenue “synergies,” or the extra return that the combined company is projected to reap from the merger. They include $1.5 billion in annual cost savings by 2021, in areas such as marketing, content for over-the-top platforms, corporate expenditures, vendor payments and data networks. He explained in his testimony that if you “have two accountants and only need one, a body comes out of that. Expense savings.”
Another $1 billion is projected by 2021 in new annual revenue from advertising growth, as Turner’s advertising business is linked to AT&T’s data to better target consumers. He also talked of creating a platform to link specific ads to specific consumers, something that would enable the company to better compete with Google and Facebook.
Stankey also cited other aspects of the merger plans, like the ability to sell Time Warner products in AT&T retail stories, or Warner Bros. movies on AT&T’s on-demand platforms. The merger also would allow Time Warner to gather data on habits of specific viewers, something that is referred to as “content intelligence.”
Justice Department attorney Eric Welsh queried Stankey about his compensation, which will increase by an undisclosed amount if the merger closes, apparently in an effort to show that the AT&T executive has a personal interest in getting the deal done. Welsh will continue his cross-examination on Thursday. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is scheduled to follow later in the day.