AT&T Clarifies Its Intent to Buy Time Warner (Not a Similary Named Cable Company)

Hollywood's make or break Moments: 4 - Time Warner - H 2015
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“Time Warner Inc. should not be confused with Time Warner Cable.”

Just so there’s no confusion: AT&T has taken the unusual step of clarifying which company it intends to purchase, lest anyone think that the owner of DirecTV is now trying to also acquire a giant provider of cable television.

Over the weekend, the telecommunications behemoth confirmed it has agreed to pay about $85 billion for Time Warner, the parent of HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and the iconic Warner Bros. film and TV studio.

Time Warner is not, however, the parent of Time Warner Cable, because it spun that asset off seven years ago. TWC, in fact, was purchased this year by Charter Communications and the combined company is being rebranded as Charter Spectrum.

Judging from some media commentary and lots of Twitter activity, though, some Americans are conflating TW and TWC, and AT&T is trying to set the record straight before consumers begin to complain too loudly — and incorrectly — that the phone company is trying to monopolize the delivery of TV.

“Time Warner Inc. should not be confused with Time Warner Cable,” AT&T said in an SEC filing on Monday titled: “AT&T Statement on TWX-TWC Confusion.” ("TWX" is Time Warner’s ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange).

While seemingly bizarre on its face, the regulatory filing actually makes sense given the amount of confusion generated, in some cases, by people who should know better, including news reporters who have been spreading misinformation.

Shortly after the merger agreement was announced Saturday, for example, several local TV news anchors mixed up the two companies, including KMBC in Missouri and WNBC and News 12 Long Island in New York.

“Local newsers, take notice: Time Warner and Time Warner Cable are two different entities,” said AdWeek in a story Saturday. In that story, AdWeek also noted that WNBC reported that the AT&T agreement to buy TW comes after a deal with Comcast fell apart, but Comcast was actually trying to buy TWC (which, again, was eventually sold to Charter).

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted: “The administration should kill the Time Warner/AT&T merger. This deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people.”

Sanders didn’t explain how combining a TV provider with a content creator would lead to higher prices and fewer choices, but it is clear that many of his 2.7 million followers who tweeted their support for the senator’s sentiments did not know the difference between TW and TWC.

“@SenSanders I so agree. AT&T owns Direct TV which is satellite and now they want to join Time Warner which is cable TV. NOT GOOD,” one follower tweeted back to Sanders, while others complained to him that an AT&T-TW merger would create a monopoly among Internet providers — but it’s TWC that provides internet access, not TW.