AT&T’s recent bid to buy Time Warner for $85 million reflects many similar media companies that have thrived on mergers and buyouts over the years. However, this particular buyout has garnered international attention since AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s recent announcement.
Founded in the late 1800s as one of Alexander Graham Bell’s first communication companies in America, AT&T has gained and maintained its reputation as a monopoly. It wasn’t until the 1980s that AT&T faced a complete breakup of its various branches and faced the wave of computer technology. This was a new market to be settled by media companies that AT&T would initially fail to succeed in.
The 90s, however, proved to be a defining decade for the company, which merged and bought other media companies aggressively and occasionally successfully. These acquisitions were the precursor to AT&T’s transformation from a long-distance carrier company to what can now be called a telecommunications supermarket.
Enter Time Warner.
In 1989, a merger between Time Inc. and Warner Communications Inc. became a possibility and was finalized in 1990, thus creating the world’s largest entertainment and media company. With this merger came Time Warner’s expansion as a basic cable provider, with highly rated channels such as CNN and TNT to boast its lineup of content. Content influence also stems from the companies relation to Warner Bros. and it’s entertainment broadcasting. From this point on, Time Warner has contributed and influenced a large part of our mainstream media.
If history serves as an indicator, this merger means that there could be drastic changes in the entertainment content we receive.
The pros of the buyout include a push for quality content on mobile devices and a service that could rival cable in nationwide reach and content creation. An experience that can be tailored to the customer could revolutionize our understanding of media.
However, a mega merger is not necessarily in the best interest of the public. The power to control and create content could exclude other types of programming not related to Time Warner content. Because it is such a significant merger, it is possible that customer interest will be overlooked or fall below the level promised. Since lower costs cannot be quantified in the conditions of these deals, it is not guaranteed.
If the innovations promised by this deal come to pass, the biggest question now is: Are we ready for it?
The biggest concern of most media companies is how to have their product available to the greatest amount of people at any given time. This leads media companies to turn to one of the biggest innovations of our generation: mobile networks.
If Time Warner and AT&T were able to provide a type of “cable service” or programming that is tailored to a more web-savvy audience, than perhaps we could expect some type of Netflix-YouTube hybrid, with “channels” churning out new content each and every hour, instead of by the day.
The words “prime time television” will be a thing of the past as service packages that connect both television and mobile entertainment.
This merger deal is just big enough to tip us into a new age of digitized living. Technology keeps evolving, now with virtual reality at the palms of one’s hands and shopping now synonymous with Internet ordering services.
Technology is changing the way we live, and will eventually change the way we perceive the world. I suppose the next step after this would be to put on a VR headset and view breaking news in live color and in real time.
Indeed, the distance between ourselves and what we are watching is closing, and we’d better be careful.