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"Grandpa, What's a Telephone Company?"

If AT&T is successful in its effort to take over Time-Warner, the company will be taking the biggest step yet towards becoming something much different than the telephone company we used to call Ma Bell. I spent 28 years there, from 1979 – 2007, which I used to describe as going full circle. I began with Southern Bell as a part of the AT&T Bell System, went through break up in 1984, went the formative years of BellSouth, the beginning of “reformation” as the Baby Bells started consolidating, and finished in when SBC and BellSouth merged and re-branded as AT&T in 2007. But just like I moved on to do other things in my career, so AT&T has moved on - and how!

If AT&T acquires Time Warner, a global media giant will be formed on par with the biggest names in the business. To illustrate, by nature of this acquisition AT&T would own:

  • CNN

  • HBO

  • TBS

  • TNT

  • Cartoon Network

  • Warner Brothers TV and Movie Studios

Specifically that includes everything from "Game of Thrones," on HBO, to "Anderson Cooper 360," on CNN, to "The Big Bang Theory," produced by Warner Bros., to March Madness basketball games, aired by several Turner cable channels. These would be added to what AT&T already obtained with its satellite Direct TV acquisition, which included rights to the NFL’s Sunday Night Football Package. (Bet you didn’t know that one.)

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as competitive dynamics in the industry as well as the demand for mobile video are fueling the integration of what historically had been separate businesses. And I’m also sure a lot of regulatory review will be triggered. But it’s clear that the AT&T of the future will certainly be a different from the AT&T of the past. In fact, I can envision the day when I’ll be sitting around with my future grandchildren talking about working at telephone company while they ask “what’s that?”

I’d be interested in your perspective on the proposed AT&T – Time Warner merger. Good thing? Bad thing? Just the next logical step? Feel free to weigh in.

Bill Mayberry
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