Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal judge will decide Tuesday whether AT&T can acquire Time Warner for $85 billion.

Why it matters: Today's court decision will shape the media and telecom landscape, as it will set off chain reactions for other media mergers and will help determine how viewers watch video content for decades to come.

There are a range of possible outcomes. Judge Richard J. Leon could choose one of two straightforward options: clearing the deal or blocking it outright.

But he could also green-light the purchase only if certain conditions are met, regardless of whether he finds that it violates antitrust law.

  • Leon could order that arbitration be used to defuse concerns about AT&T using Time Warner's content as leverage to gain an advantage over competitors in the video space, after AT&T already indicated it may be open to using that process.
    • That could, in theory, allow programming negotiations to take place without the threat of a "blackout," where a programmer pulls its content from a distributor when they can't reach a deal.
  • He could tell the merging companies to sell off key assets, which would be less palatable to AT&T.
    • Selling either DirecTV or the Turner networks (or a portion of them), including CNN and TNT, would undermine the central benefits of the deal for AT&T. DOJ requested some divestitures before filing its lawsuit, and AT&T refused.

Between the lines: A win for AT&T would probably make it easier for TV networks to merge with a tech or telecom company — essentially fusing the content delivery systems with the content itself.

  • Other deals at stake: If AT&T prevails, it could cause 21st Century Fox to seriously consider Comcast's higher offer over Disney's bid. An AT&T win also bolsters T-Mobile's case to regulators that it should be allowed to buy Sprint.
  • Beyond tech and telecom deals: It would signal to all U.S. companies that a vertical merger — combining with a company they don't directly compete with — has a decent shot of getting regulatory approval.

On the other hand: A win for DOJ will raise questions about a slew of outstanding deals, including in media and telecom as well as industries like healthcare, where CVS is trying to buy Aetna, and Cigna wants to acquire ExpressScripts.

The back story: The verdict follows a more than six-week long trial after the government sued to block the mega deal.

  • There were rumblings that the DOJ's lawsuit seeking to block industry consolidation — a surprising position for a Republican administration — came in response to political pressure from the White House. President Trump was critical of the merger on the campaign trail because Time Warner owns CNN, whose coverage he dislikes.
  • AT&T originally tried to discredit the DOJ's lawsuit by claiming political bias, but leaned more heavily on the argument that it needs to acquire Time Warner to compete with Silicon Valley tech companies, like Google and Facebook, after a judge denied them access to key documents they would have needed to make that charge.

What we're hearing: News coverage and analysts' notes over the past several months have suggested that the DOJ failed to deliver a compelling argument to block the merger. But those headlines could be over-simplifying the logic of the case.

  • All the DOJ needs to prove is that the merger may substantially lessen competition. The DOJ claims the merger could increase TV bills by hundreds of millions of dollars a year by 2021, though that balances out to an increase of less than $1 on a customer's monthly bill. It's up to the judge to determine whether that number is enough consumer harm to stop the deal.

What to expect: Leon has called reporters and stakeholders back to the court room to issue an official ruling Tuesday afternoon. This is highly unusual for a district court judge, and could foreshadow a complex ruling.

Go deeper

33 mins ago - World

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

Scoop: Biden admin call on Putin pipeline provokes GOP anger

Putin chairs a video meeting in July 2020. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

A briefing between the State Department and congressional staff over Vladimir Putin's Russia-Germany gas pipeline got tense this week, with Biden officials deflecting questions about why they hadn't moved faster and more aggressively with sanctions to stop its completion.

  • The Biden officials also denied negotiating with the Germans over a potential side deal to allow the pipeline to be finished.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Biden: It's "not the time to relax" COVID mitigation efforts — Tracking coronavirus variants through sewage.
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  6. World: Brazil's capital enters 24-hour lockdown as coronavirus cases surge.