| WASHINGTON, June 24
WASHINGTON, June 24 DirecTV's chief
executive officer told lawmakers on Tuesday that the largest
U.S. satellite television provider needs to merge with AT&T Inc
so that it can offer Internet service to consumers that is
critical to remaining competitive.
"We've competed aggressively by delivering more
high-definition channels, a clearer picture ... than cable," CEO
Michael White said at a hearing on the proposed $48.5 billion
merger before the House Judiciary Committee.
"In recent years, however, broadband is changing
everything. If we want to continue to compete effectively in
today's Internet-driven economy, we must adapt as well."
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson reiterated his company's
assurances to the Federal Communications Commission earlier this
month that the merger would combine the two companies'
complementary products to offer the bundles of video and
broadband services that consumers increasingly want.
AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier, told the FCC in a
filing that the merger would create a stronger competitor to the
cable companies, including in the areas where DirecTV and AT&T
now overlap, and would bring better Internet service to rural
"We operate in a competitive market that's only getting more
competitive," Stephenson said at Tuesday's hearing. "The cable
companies already dominate on broadband and video today, and
Google Fiber, Netflix and ever-faster wireless services are
really transforming competition daily."
The two executives and critics of the merger will speak at a
Senate Judiciary Committee hearing later on Tuesday.
The AT&T/DirecTV deal is one of three shaking up the cable
and wireless landscape. The other two are Comcast's
$45.2 billion bid for Time Warner Cable and Sprint's
potential bid for T-Mobile US.
Comcast, in pushing for its own merger, has pointed to
growing video competition from companies such as Google Inc
, Netflix Inc and Amazon.com.
Consumer advocates have raised red flags about industry
consolidation, warning that content providers and consumers may
face higher prices despite the companies' reassurances
"We're concerned that there may be too much, too rapid
consolidation in the telecommunications industry," said
Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat.
"This ongoing wave of consolidation will without question
result in fewer firms and may harm consumers by limiting choices
and also raising prices after all ... I will be looking and
listening to make sure that we are not moving in the wrong
Lawmakers can be a major influence on merger deliberations.
However, they will have no formal role in deciding whether the
AT&T/DirecTV deal wins approval from the Justice Department,
which must ensure the merger complies with antitrust law, and
the FCC, which has a broader public-interest standard.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Marina Lopes; Editing by