DOJ Sues To Block AT&T-Time Warner Merger; Broadcasters Team Up On API For Local TV Ads

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Vertical Disintegration

The Justice Department is suing to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner on the grounds that the combined television content and distribution assets violate antitrust law. Bloomberg was first to report the story. Blocking the AT&T-Time Warner merger would have strong second-order impacts. Comcast and Verizon, for instance, have reportedly approached Twenty-First Century Fox about acquiring its TV and film production assets – and you can bet they’re taking notes right now. In a statement, AT&T called the DOJ suit “a radical and inexplicable departure” from antitrust precedent. “Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market.” Related in AdExchanger: How the DOJ suit could impact other vertical media deals. Read that.

TIP Of The Iceberg

Four broadcast media companies – Nexstar Media Group, Sinclair Broadcast, Tegna and Tribune Media – will jointly support an open API for media agencies to buy local TV ads. The TV Interface Practices, as the initiative is called (TIP for short), will standardize ad buys across participating networks, creating more scaled and targetable audiences. “While various solutions providers have sought to streamline the process to support the industry’s long-term competitiveness,” the consortium says in a statement, “progress has been slow due to a lack of universal modern standards-based interfaces.” Read the release.

Collect Your Thoughts

A former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, who was responsible for privacy issues on the developer platform in the year leading up to the company’s 2012 IPO, writes in a New York Times column that government regulators should not give the platform any benefit of the doubt on its capacity to self-regulate data and advertising practices. “What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse,” Parakilas says. Facebook “reaches most of the country every day and has the most detailed set of personal data ever assembled,” but is incentivized to fix policies only when it becomes a public relations liability. More.

Partisan Pitfalls

Brands have always been careful not to stir political controversy, but it’s harder now than ever in a media world fueled by online outrage, and where politics is inextricable from sports, finance and entertainment news. Brands like Keurig, Jim Beam and Papa John’s have become embroiled in political controversy, exacerbated by viral Facebook posts and tweetstorms, for the actions of their spokespeople or decisions about where to run ads. While in the past advertisers could avoid politics altogether, today’s consumers often demand that a brand embody their social and political beliefs. It’s a Catch-22 for brands. “This is something consumers and future consumers care about,” says Ken Kraemer, CEO of agency Deep Focus. “But then again, there are very real business repercussions for expressing those points of view.” The NYT has more.

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