Is Donald Trump about to get his way at CNN? It is no secret that Mr. Trump has been in attack mode over what he calls unfair coverage of his administration. There was even rumors that he planned to use his dislike for CNN to hamper AT&T’s takeover of CNN parent Time Warner and he even called for the removal of CNN chief Jeff Zucker after taking credit for getting Zucker the job. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has gotten complaints directly from Mr. Trump about CNN and Jeff Zucker and now some at CNN are worried that Mr. Stephenson could possibly remove Mr. Zucker from the top of CNN to please Mr. Trump, a move that will no doubt be a massive controversy and potentially bring a war to Mr. Stephenson’s doorstep. But another scenario has AT&T unloading CNN to rid itself of the current political noise, a move that would be welcomed by companies like Disney and CBS. CBS CEO Les Moonves recently said that CNN becoming part of CBS would enhance CBS. For now all eyes are on CNN’s Zucker to see if his soon to be corporate bosses will allow Mr. Trump and his administration to dictate who works for them. We don’t think AT&T wants that kind of heat from the public and/or CNN staffers.
“I know the AT&T people. CNN is not why they did this deal,” said one longtime media consultant in Washington. “They would spin him off in a minute,” this person added, referring to Zucker. “They don’t care about him.” Media analysts call the proposed merger a “vertical” deal since it integrates programming and distribution into one shop. Current antitrust law doesn’t give much scrutiny to such deals, provided they do not dampen competition in the market. So it may have been harder, say for 21st Century Fox’s offer for Time Warner to get approval than for AT&T’s, according to multiple industry experts. Regarding the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal, “I don’t think anyone with clout is opposing this deal,” the media consultant added.
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