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Fox-Time Warner News Colors Senate Committee Look At Online Video; Netflix’s Reed Hastings Declines Invite

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 2:25pm PDT

Fox-Time Warner News Colors Senate Committee Look At Online Video; Netflix’s Reed Hastings Declines Invite“We’re in an arms race,” Public Knowledge CEO Gene Kimmelman told the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing to explore the prospects for broadband video. It’s “no surprise, content companies bulk up” as Fox wants to do with its $80B bid for Time Warner, which was rejected by the company but disclosed today. Following Comcast’s deal to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s with DirecTV, “consumers are between a rock and a hard place….They started the ball rolling and as we’ve seen from today’s stories, we don’t know where it’s going to end.”

Representatives from Comcast and AT&T indirectly debated with execs from Dish Network, the WGA, and Kimmelman over whether online video providers have to fear mergers or need strong net neutrality rules. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W Va) ended the proceedings by arguing for municipal broadband to provide a low-cost option for poor residents. He also said that he invited Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who declined to show. “I can’t figure [it] out because I’m trying to help them, I think. But he didn’t want to be here.”

Dish says that later this year it plans to introduce a low-priced online video service that will include live streams of ESPN, and could be threatened by the union of the two largest cable companies. “Comcast doesn’t necessarily want us to succeed because we’re competitors,” says the satellite company’s Deputy General Counsel Jeffrey Blum. “We are very concerned that a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable will have an incentive and ability to stifle our service.” Read More »

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DeadlineNow: FCC Signals Hard Look At Proposed Mega-Mergers (Video)

By | Tuesday July 8, 2014 @ 12:58pm PDT
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FCC Taps Economist Who Opposed Comcast's Acquisition Of NBCUniversal To Oversee Proposed Mega-Mergers

Deadline's David Lieberman looks at the FCC's choice to oversee the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers.

Related:
FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

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FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal

By | Monday July 7, 2014 @ 12:21pm PDT

FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable DealComcast needs no introduction to the economist who the FCC tapped today to help regulators sort through the cable giant’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s for DirecTV: Former FCC Chief Economist William Rogerson, now a professor at Northwestern University, was an important opponent of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He wrote at least three reports in 2010 that challenged Comcast’s economic analysis and concluded that the deal would hurt consumers. One, which he wrote on behalf of the American Cable Association, estimated that the reduction in competition from a combined Comcast-NBCU likely would lead pay TV customers to pay an additional $316.8M a year. That meant “the harm of this transaction is more than ten times as large as the benefit,” he said at the time.
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AT&T-DirecTV Chiefs Dispute Charges That Merger Will Raise Prices And Limit Choices

By | Tuesday June 24, 2014 @ 1:47pm PDT

AT&T-DirecTV Chiefs Dispute Charges That Merger Will Raise Prices And Limit ChoicesAT&T’s Randall Stephenson and DirecTV’s Michael White faced some of the toughest questions they’ve encountered yet about their companies’ planned $49B merger in two congressional hearings today. They repeated their view that the deal would lower costs. But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pressed them to add whether consumers would see a direct benefit in lowered rates. “Dollar for dollar? No, I can not commit to that,” White said. Stephenson also declined to be specific. “One would have to believe in the market and market pressures,” he said adding that “prices are changing constantly.” The senator was unimpressed. “I have this sense that we are watching a re-run here….A lot of consumers would find that unsatisfying.”

att logoSen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) had more luck pinning the AT&T CEO down to promote, as well as offer, a competitive stand-alone broadband service. In a 2006 deal to buy Bell South “you hid the [promised] plan deep in the terms and conditions in your web page…it sounds like a broken promise,” Franken said. Would AT&T promise this time to make the service clear and visible to consumers? “Yes, I will,” Stephenson said. “I will make you without equivocation that commitment.” The exec was less certain when asked whether AT&T had paid lobbyists to support state laws that bar local governments from creating their own broadband services, an option that Franken believes communities should be free to make. Stephenson says he doesn’t know whether AT&T lobbied against municipal broadband. He added, though, … Read More »

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DirecTV & AT&T Hit With Class-Action Lawsuit Over Proposed Merger

By | Thursday May 29, 2014 @ 8:15pm PDT

ATT DirecTV logosCue the lawsuits over the latest media mega-merger. Less than two weeks after AT&T and DirecTV sealed their $48 billion-plus tie-up, a shareholder has filed a class action objecting to the deal. The suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here) names as defendants AT&T, the satcaster and its board members, including former CBS honcho Peter Lund and ex-Fox Networks Group chief Tony Vinciquerra. In the lawsuit, investor Teresa Silvestri claims the purchase price for the satcaster is too low considering its long-term potential. “DirecTV’s recent financial performance is indicative of a company on the rise with growth potential yet to be recognized,” the suit reads. It also takes the board members to task. “In approving the Proposed Acquisition … the Individual Defendants have breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty, good faith, due care and disclosure by … agreeing to sell DirecTV without first taking steps to ensure that Plaintiff and Class members would obtain adequate, fair and maximum consideration under the circumstances and engineering the Proposed Acquisition to benefit themselves and/or AT&T without regard for DirecTV public shareholders. Absent judicial intervention, the merger will be consummated, resulting in irreparable injury to Plaintiff and the Class.”

Related: Is Peter Chernin Key To AT&T’s Deal With DirecTV?

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Is Peter Chernin Key To AT&T’s Deal With DirecTV?

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 3:33pm PDT

AT&T DirecTV Merger That’s the way it looks to me the closer I examine the transaction. Just last month the telco announced that it forged a partnershipwith former News Corp COO Peter Chernin, valued at $500M, to either buy or build a so-called over-the-top (OTT) online video service. That’s now potentially the biggest — and perhaps the only meaningful — new opportunity for AT&T if it completes its $49.5B acquisition of DirecTV. The satellite company’s CEO Michael White told analysts this week that OTT and mobile video could be ”big win-wins not only for us and our customers but also for our programming partners.”

Related: Peter Chernin Teams With AT&T In $500M Effort To Create Online Video Service

Chernin peterIt’s more than an opportunity — it’s a necessity for the two companies. DirecTV‘s domestic TV business is mature, and AT&T’s copper wireline phone network is becoming obsolete. The media world is now about broadband, and cable companies led by Comcast have pretty much locked up the part of the business that involves wired connections. About 83% of the 1.2M people who signed up for wired broadband in Q1 went with cable, Leichtman Research Group reports. DirecTV and AT&T can’t beat cable’s ability to transmit gobs of programming and data to home TVs and computers.

Yet AT&T’s wireless spectrum could put it in the pole position to sell video and Internet services for smartphones and tablets — especially when out of the home.

The problem? AT&T and DirecTV were slow to move, which gave their respective chief competitors — Verizon and Dish Network — a head start in the race to develop a national OTT service. Read More »

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AT&T CFO: A Bid For Dish Network Would Have Been A Tough Sell In Washington

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 6:33am PDT

AT&TLots of company watchers were surprised to see AT&T agree to pay $49.5B for DirecTV figuring that Dish Network — which has been amassing wireless spectrum — would be a more logical target for the telco. But it turns out that Dish chairman Charlie Ergen’s much-discussed but still nascent plan to create a wireless broadband service made his company less attractive. If AT&T tried to buy a potential competitor it “would be likely to raise additional regulatory questions and scrutiny, especially at a time when we have a couple of FCC spectrum auctions scheduled,” CFO John Stephens said this morning at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. He was careful to note that DirecTV was a first choice, not a runner-up, as he talked up its “premier” network, distribution system, content, and “premier people.”

Related: Consumers Group, Public Interest Org Respond To AT&T-DirecTV Deal

Stephens reiterated a lot of the selling points AT&T and DirecTV raised this week for the deal including their ability to offer content across multiple screens. Programmers will want to do business with AT&T because its reach in broadband, wireless, and – with DirecTV’s 20M subs – satellite video will make it “a national force.” DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket also is important; AT&T can walk away from the deal if the satellite company doesn’t renew its licensing Read More »

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Consumers Group, Public Interest Org Respond To AT&T-DirecTV Deal

By | Sunday May 18, 2014 @ 4:01pm PDT

AT&TdirecTV__130523212608Following Sunday’s unanimous board approval of AT&T‘s $48.5 billion deal to buy satcaster DirecTV, DC-based public interest group Public Knowledge and Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, called for extensive analysis of the pact which is still subject to approval by DIRECTV shareholders and to review by the FCC, U.S. Department of Justice, some U.S. states and Latin American countries. The deal is expected to be made final within 12 months.

Related: AT&T Seals $48B+ Deal To Acquire DirecTV

Said Public Knowledge’s Senior Staff Attorney John Bergmayer:

“The industry needs more competition, not more mergers. The burden is on AT&T and DirecTV to show otherwise. We’ll have to analyze this carefully for potential harms both to the video programming and the wireless markets. The most obvious concern is that customers in U-Verse territories would lose a video competitor, though the transaction would have nationwide effects.

“Public Knowledge tends to view mergers with a skeptical eye. In this case, it will help to hear more definitive information about the companies’ plans. For example, does AT&T plan to frame this as allowing it to compete more effectively with Comcast? If so, that is yet another reason why policymakers should be skeptical of the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable transaction. We also need to know more about whether AT&T plans to offer some kind of wireless/pay TV bundle, and what kinds of services it could offer in both U-Verse territories and nationwide. Policymakers will have to ask a lot of tough questions when looking at this deal.

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AT&T Seals $48B+ Deal To Acquire DirecTV

By | Sunday May 18, 2014 @ 2:37pm PDT

AT&TAT&T has finalized its deal to acquire DirecTV, the nation’s No. 1 satellite TV provider, for $94 per share. The boards of the respective companies reportedly came to terms of the $48.5 billion stock and cash deal over the weekend in a major tie-up creates a pay-TV powerhouse that would have a similar scale and in some ways act as a response to Comcast’s proposed $45B merger with with Time Warner Cable and is just the latest major proposed consolidation in the TV and telecom industries.

Related:
Are DirecTV And AT&T Becoming Serious About Making A Deal?
DirecTV Shares Up On Report That A Deal With AT&T Is Near

direcTV__130523212608AT&T has an existing partnership with the satellite giant to sell its service in areas where it offers broadband but doesn’t offer its U-verse TV service, which has 5.7M subscribers. DirecTV has about 20M subs. The broadband expansion will cover 70M customer locations. Under the terms of the deal DirecTV’s operations will continue to be based in El Segundo, CA.

Deal will also allow AT&T to boost broadband speeds and expand its high speed broadband service to 15M customer locations including rural areas not currently wired, to be completed within four years. DirecTV customers can retain their standalone service packages for three years.

DirecTV stock has been hovering around record highs the past week amid rising rumors that … Read More »

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DirecTV Shares Up On Report That A Deal With AT&T Is Near

By | Monday May 12, 2014 @ 2:39pm PDT

direcTV__130523212608The No. 1 satellite company is +6.3% in post market trading after the Wall Street Journal reported that DirecTV and AT&T are “moving quickly” and could make an announcement within two weeks. The paper says AT&T may offer cash and stock that values DirecTV at $50B, a 12.4% premium over its $44.5B market value based on today’s closing price. If DirecTV’s after hours trading price of about $92.65 a share holds, then it would set a new record high for the stock, which is up 13.8% since the end of April when reports of the talks with AT&T surfaced. Last week DirecTV CEO Michael White sought to besmirch the accurate reports about the talks with AT&T as little more than “media rumors and speculation.” He added that the reports “are not based on official sources of information” but did not contradict them.

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Are DirecTV And AT&T Becoming Serious About Making A Deal?

By | Wednesday May 7, 2014 @ 3:51pm PDT

direcTV__130523212608Seems so: The satellite company has hired Goldman Sachs to help evaluate a possible combination The Wall Street Journal reported today — contributing to a late afternoon spike in DirecTV‘s shares. The company closed +8% to $81.35 and touched $88.55, an all time high. Yesterday DirecTV CEO Michael White tried to besmirch apparently accurate and newsworthy reports about AT&T‘s approach as mere “media rumors and speculation.” He added that he doesn’t “view it as productive to speculate about alternative business combinations, which may or may not occur.” But he also chose not to tell investors the facts. Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell says a combination would give AT&T — which has 5.7M video customers on its U-verse platform — “much needed scale in a post Comcast-[Time Warner Cable] world.” But Guggenheim Securities’ Michael Morris says that consolidation is “unlikely in the current environment” because competition “appears to be limiting pricing growth to consumers, likely a positive from a regulatory perspective.”

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Deadline Big Media 83 – The Really Big Cable TV Show

By and | Saturday May 3, 2014 @ 12:47pm PDT

Deadline Big Media ep 83In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom recap one heck of a week in the business of providing services that looks more or less like television across all kinds of delivery platforms. The NCTA cable-TV conference opened in Los Angeles, attracting numerous big-name speakers such as the FCC chairman, but big deals also seemed to be breaking out everywhere. There was talk of a massive deal between AT&T and DirecTV Networks; a $20-billion swap of subscribers between Charter and Comcast, and Viacom’s $757 million acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5. Along the way, DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg seemed to write off his core business, and got roundly whacked by another media mogul, Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner. In a word, “ouch.”

Listen to the podcast in your choice of audio formats here:
Deadline Big Media podcast 83 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 83 (.M4A version) Read More »

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Does AT&T Really Want DirecTV Instead Of Dish Network?

By | Thursday May 1, 2014 @ 10:09am PDT

PdirecTV__130523212608ossibly, but the smart money today is betting that AT&T would prefer Dish. DirecTV shares are up 5.5% in mid-day trading following a Wall Street Journal report that the telco giant initiated conversations about a deal that could be worth $40B. But Dish Network is up even more at 7.5%. “We scratch our heads” at AT&T’s motivation to team with DirecTV because the satellite company “does not have wireless spectrum,” Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker says. She suspects the approach to DirecTV is a way “to perhaps ‘flesh out’ [Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen] to pursue some sort of transaction with Dish.” Guggenheim Partners’ Paul Gallant also says that AT&T would prefer Dish, which has been amassing rights to spectrum in the hope of creating a wireless broadband business. AT&TThat could be important for AT&T because “it is not immediately obvious where new spectrum comes from after the FCC’s broadcast spectrum auction in 2015.”

Wunderlich Securities’ Matthew Harrigan believes an AT&T-DirecTV combo makes sense. AT&T’s U-verse has just 5.7M video customers. Teaming with DirecTV, with 20.1M U.S. subs, would “offer a premium demographic national video solution that supports first to market 4K TV capabilities while allowing AT&T’s U-verse plant to be entirely dedicated to broadband.” (Its systems now allocate 15 Mbps to video and 10 Mbps to Internet.) Read More »

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AT&T Eyeing $40B DirecTV Acquisition: Report

By | Wednesday April 30, 2014 @ 9:02pm PDT

AT&TIn what could be the next mega-deal in the TV world, AT&T reportedly has an interest in the satcaster giant. The Wall Street Journal reported tonight that AT&T has approached DirecTV about a possible acquisition, which likely would be worth $40 billion, the paper said. Neither company would comment on the WSJ report. The deal would create a Pay TV behemoth potentially on the same scale as the Comcast’s proposed $45 billion merger with with direcTV__130523212608Time Warner Cable. DirecTV is the No. 2 pay service, with about 20 million subscribers, and AT&T phone-based TV biz has nearly 6 million. AT&T has an existing partnership with the satellite giant to sell its service in areas where it offers broadband but doesn’t offer its U-verse TV service. AT&T just this week teamed with Peter Chernin in a venture to create an online service that can take the place of traditional pay TV.

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Peter Chernin Teams With AT&T In $500M Effort To Create Online Video Service

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 8:51am PDT

Peter_Chernin__130405234647-e1365205682616-200x215This is a weird, but intriguing announcement. AT&T and The Chernin Group say today that they formed a venture “to acquire, invest in and launch over-the-top (OTT) video services.” (Jargon alert: OTT is industry-speak for an online service that can take the place of traditional pay TV.) The two have committed more than $500M, but offer no details about how much each has put up, ownership stakes, etc. — although Chernin’s kicking in his majority stake in subscription VOD service Crunchyroll.  They plan to invest in ad and subscription VOD channels as well as streaming services. ”A critical part of The Chernin Group’s strategy has been our significant focus on the online video industry, and joining forces with AT&T only further underscores our strategic commitment in this area as operators, investors and programmers,” Chernin says. He adds that AT&T’s “massive reach on those platforms across mobile and broadband and their commitment to the online video space make them the perfect fit for this venture with us.” Chernin was a major supporter of Hulu back when he was Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2 at News Corp. AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey says that the combo “creates the opportunity for us to develop a compelling offering in the OTT space.”  AT&T will disclose its Q1 earnings, and talk with analysts, after the market closes today.

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Longtime ‘American Idol’ Sponsor AT&T Exits, Ford & Coca-Cola Back

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 5:31pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

attidolAn American Idol staple — the AT&T voting numbers read by host Ryan Seacrest after every performance — are gone. AT&T, which joined the Fox singing competition in Season 2, will not return for Idol’s upcoming 13th season. Ford and Coca-Cola, who have been on the show since the start, continue to be onboard. A lot has changed since Idol launched in 2002. Phoning and texting, once the primary way of audience voting, have been pushed out by online voting, which Idol has been doing for the last couple of seasons. It is unclear whether there will be another sponsor replacing AT&T though the show does not necessarily need one.

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Will The FCC Allow AT&T To Go Ahead With Its “Sponsored Data” Plan?

“We’re ready to intervene,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week about the new AT&T plan that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates. Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCBut that’s short of a full-fledged commitment to deal with an issue that media and entertainment companies will closely monitor. The wireless carrier told an audience at the International CES confab that it will begin to let content providers pick up the tab for some of their 4G transmissions. It’s “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for Internet commerce,” AT&T says. In theory, that could range from a studio paying data costs for mobile device users to watch a movie trailer — to ESPN or Netflix helping people to watch their programming. The idea is “a win-win for customers and businesses,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Net neutrality advocates counter that AT&T’s plan would give well-funded industry giants a huge advantage over challengers in an environment where companies would effectively have to pay in order to reach mobile device users. “In addition to being a ripoff for both consumers and content creators, AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online,” says Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg. Read More »

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Tribeca Sets Fest Submission Deadlines; AT&T Replacing Amex As Prime Sponsor

By | Monday August 5, 2013 @ 8:33am PDT
Mike Fleming

The Tribeca Film Festival has set submission dates for its 2014 fest, and it has named AT&T as its presenting sponsor. That role had been filled by American Express since the fest’s inception when it was hatched to bring business back downtown after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the years, it also included some pretty memorable Amex commercials with the likes of Robert De Niro talking about New York. Amex will still be involved in a sponsorship capacity, but AT&T steps up after first becoming involved a couple of years ago.

“Our relationship with AT&T reflects a shared commitment to New York and the cultural community,” said Robert De Niro, co-founder, Tribeca Film Festival. “We’re very grateful for their support of Tribeca.”

TFF’s programming team, led by Chief Creative Officer Geoffrey Gilmore, Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer, Director of Programming Genna Terranova, Programmer Cara Cusumano and Shorts Programmer Sharon Badal, announced a call for submissions for narrative and documentary features and short film entries.

Deadlines to submit U.S. and international films for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival are as follows:

Sept. 16 – SUBMISSIONS OPEN

Oct. 18 – EARLY DEADLINE: FEATURES, SHORTS AND TRANSMEDIA PROJECTS

Nov. 29 – OFFICIAL DEADLINE, ALL FEATURES, SHORTS AND TRANSMEDIA PROJECTS

Dec. 27 – LATE DEADLINE, AVAILABLE ONLY TO FEATURE LENGTH FILMS COMPLETED AFTER OFFICIAL DEADLINE

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AT&T Agrees To Buy Leap Wireless

By | Friday July 12, 2013 @ 2:21pm PDT

UPDATE, 4:04 PM: Activist group Public Knowledge is first out urging government officials to reject the AT&T-Leap deal. “Since the federal government said ‘no’ to AT&T’s efforts to take over T-Mobile in 2011, AT&T has been slowly buying up smaller companies and wireless licenses all over the country,” the group’s SVP Harold Feld says. Low income consumers would be hurt if AT&T eliminated Leap’s pre-paid wireless offering. “This is getting ridiculous. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission need to say ‘no’ to this latest effort by AT&T to buy out its rivals and rebuild ‘Ma Cell.’”

PREVIOUS, 2:21 PM: Leap Wireless’ stock price is up nearly 110% in post market trading after AT&T said that it would pay $15 a share — an 88% premium over Friday’s $7.98 closing price — to buy the mobile provider, which has about 5M subscribers. In addition to the $1.2B in cash for the stock, AT&T will assume $2.8B in Leap’s debt, and give its shareholders a right to the proceeds from the sale of some spectrum in Chicago. AT&T says that it will keep Leap’s Cricket brand mobile service, which reaches 96M people in 35 states. In addition, the company will use Leap’s unutilized spectrum to help expand AT&T’s 4G wireless broadband service. Strangely, the companies’ release does not include any comments from executives. But it says that the deal will result in “increased competition, better device … Read More »

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