AT&T could become a television giant, too, with a $50 billion DirecTV merger

The potential combination of AT&T and DirecTV would produce a behemoth that would rival the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in total subscribers. (Reuters)

The rumors keep escalating. AT&T might be willing to pay $100 a share to acquire DirecTV, one of the nation's few satellite TV operators, according to Bloomberg. The deal would amount to about $50 billion.

That's a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that another major deal announced this year, Comcast's proposed bid for Time Warner Cable, comes to just over $45 billion — no small figure in itself, to be sure.

If approved, the deal would create a big potential counterweight to an enlarged Comcast, leaving AT&T controlling about 28 million pay-TV subscribers and Comcast with 30 million. Each company would account for roughly one-third of the pay-TV marketplace.

The other large competitor in the satellite arena, Dish Network,  took itself out of the running last week to  acquire DirecTV, saying it couldn't afford to outbid AT&T.

Regulators reviewing the Comcast proposal — and now potentially AT&T's — are supposed to assess each deal on its own merits. But it will be almost impossible for them to avoid thinking of one without weighing the consequences of the other.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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