Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How the AT&T/Time Warner Deal Affects Gamers

This blog isn't always just about video games. We have to take some time to talk about other media news that can potentially affect our gaming habits. Such as the AT&T/Time Warner deal that will put AT&T as the largest media company on the planet - arguably. And it's a big deal.

Over the weekend, AT&T threw down an offer to buy up Time Warner at $85.4 billion. First distinction we should make here is that this isn't for Time Warner Cable. That sector spun off a few years back to prevent Time Warner from becoming a monopoly. This would be for Time Warner's creative assets. That means Warner Brother's studios, WB Interactive (which produces video games such as DC Universe, The Lord of the Rings series, and The Witcher), HBO, CNN - all of the content channels would be under the AT&T umbrella. AT&T would be both a content producer and a distributor through their mobile and land-line platforms.

That's a big, freekin' deal.

It could potentially make some of that content exclusive to just AT&T. HBO's more lax system at accessing it's shows, even if you don't have cable, could go away. No more HBO Go and you may have to have AT&T cable or mobile to watch Game of Thrones. Lord help us if AT&T decides to release their own game system. Any future Witcher or Lord of the Rings games would be locked in to their console, and their console alone. This can become a huge problem for competition. If Comcast wants the rights to air HBO shows, they may have to pay additional fees to AT&T above the normal premium. Comcast can then pass the increased price to their customers, or forgo HBO all-together.

As gamers, they could limit our access to their library by requiring data plans for WB mobile games. Or if the turn-around profit they expect to receive isn't as fast as they would like, could shut down WB Interactive entirely.

On the other hand, if AT&T doesn't turn into a total dick about it, they could open up more communication channels for people to access content and not limit availability.

But before all this happens, the deal has to be approved by regulators. Anti-trust experts believe that as long as AT&T follows a similar structure as Comcast did when they acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, everything should go through without much trouble. AT&T would have to agree to several conditions and ensure their deal doesn't harm their competition.

It may not mean anything now, but it's something we should all be aware of as media consumers. Whether it's film, television, gaming, or the internet, if AT&T's deal is accepted, we could be changing our media habits to fit with their vision.

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