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The Key Competitive Facts behind the AT&T-Time-Warner Acquisition

This analysis of the competitive facts underlying AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner is an outgrowth of my discussion of the acquisition on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show this morning with Cecilia Kang of the New York Times and John Bergmeyer of Public Knowledge. The show can be heard here.

My main point was that the competitive facts are the best friend of this transaction.

I elaborate on that conclusion below.

The key facts lead me to believe the transaction should and will be approved, most likely by the DOJ, because of: the antitrust-benign competitive share facts in all the relevant markets; the antitrust precedents that constrain the DOJ’s ability to successfully challenge in court a vertical merger with these benign shares; and the companies have signaled they understand that if any legitimate competitive concerns arise they can be mitigated successfully with conditions and DOJ oversight of the transaction.    

If officials examine the competitive facts of this acquisition with an open mind and with due process, they’ll discover first impressions can be very misleading.

What No Bids for Twitter Tell Us about Google Facebook & Online Advertising

What does it tell us that no company ultimately bid to buy Twitter over the last month despite several reported brand-name interested buyers?

Twitter is the eighth-most-visited Internet site in the world; the best site in the world for real-time content; and is one of the few public companies in the marketplace that is growing revenue at a 20% annual rate – and no one even submitted a low-ball bid for Twitter? What is going on here?

Apparently, it tells us that there are only two companies in the world that could grow, leverage and monetize Twitter to make it worth roughly $20b under current circumstances – Alphabet-Google and Facebook -- and they both practically can’t buy Twitter for antitrust reasons.

Let’s analyze why.

First, Google and Facebook each individually would face unwanted serious antitrust risk.


Currently, Alphabet-Google is embroiled in this century’s biggest antitrust case in the EU.

Google’s New Home/Hardware Integration Has Privacy & Antitrust Implications

Listen to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai when he says Google foresees a transformation from a “mobile-first world to an AI-first world,” because that is where Google-Android’s ~90% market dominance in mobile, search, and search advertising, is going to take the world -- like it or not.

As you will see, an “AI-first world” is also a “privacy-second world” and an “antitrust-cursed world.”

Just like Google’s unmatched data collection enabled it to figure out how to position itself to dominate the mobile Internet with Android’s contractual-tying over the last eight years, Google’s unmatched data collection currently is enabling it to figure out how to perfectly vertically-integrate a comprehensive-suite of home-related, products and services to dominate home-digital information and services with its just announced products: Google Home, Google WiFi, Allo, Google Assistant, Google Pixel, etc.

Naturally this Google “data-driven,” omni-integration will have big privacy and antitrust implications.

Google’s Information Is Power – Info-opoly Power

Who thinks it wise to allow a single company to corner the global market for any set of critical inputs to the global economy -- like stocks, bonds, currencies, industrial metals, precious metals, energy resources, grains, food, or livestock -- with no regulatory oversight, transparency or obligation to be an honest broker?   

Why then, if “information is power” in commerce, society, and governing, has the world allowed Google to anti-competitively corner the global market for the world’s information?

To spotlight this extraordinary risk and exceptional lapse in sovereign accountability, my new research provides new insight into how Google has become the most powerful commercial monopoly the modern world has ever seen.  

Will FCC Allow Google to become the Fox that Guards its AllVid Henhouse?

A fox should not be allowed to guard a henhouse, unless the farmer wants the fox to eat all the hens.

Neither should the world’s fiercest corporate opponent of copyright, Google, be allowed to be the FCC’s technological guard of $200b worth of annual video programming revenues, in the FCC’s AllVid Set-Top Box rulemaking, unless the FCC wants Google-YouTube and others to be able to pirate the nation’s video-programming property without paying for it.

Will FCC Allow Competition to Google’s & Facebook’s Advertising Monopolies?

Why is the FCC protecting and facilitating online advertising monopolies?

How can the FCC square its “competition, competition, competition” PR mantra with its regulatory plans for applying new anticompetitive privacy rules only on ISPs and not the “edge” online advertising monopolies -- Google and Facebook?

Simply as it relates to online advertising, the FCC’s new proposed Title II privacy rules would require ISPs with existing advertising businesses, or those planning to enter, compete, and grow in the online advertising market, to be subject to a new and special, privacy opt-in, consumer-consent framework where they alone in the marketplace would have to secure users’ advanced permission to use a majority of their data for advertising purposes.  

Why Did Google & Facebook Stop Competing With Each Other?

The evidence shows that Google & Facebook -- by far the world’s most dominant Internet gatekeepers – are not an Internet advertising “duopoly,” but worse, two separate Internet advertising monopoly platforms, one in search advertising and another in social media advertising.

That’s because search and social media advertising are not competitive substitutes for each other, but are proving to be synergistic advertising complements to each other in company marketing campaigns, because generally search advertising excels at lead generation and local business visibility while social media advertising generally excels at building brand awareness and interactivity with consumers.

Tellingly, after beginning to directly compete in social in 2011 and in search in 2013, Google and Facebook both abruptly, coincidentally, and effectively stopped competing directly with each other in both the search and social media markets in 2014.

Apparently, they either jointly agreed in 2014 to divide up the marketplace and no longer directly compete with each other to maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability; or they concluded independently -- from their initial directly competitive forays into the other’s core markets -- that the other commanded unbeatable monopoly network effects, so not directly competing with each other would maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability.     

The EU-Google Antitrust Cases’ Implications for Amazon Facebook & Apple

The EU’s recent intense antitrust spotlight on Google can’t help but illuminate some of what EU antitrust authorities think about other dominant consumer technology platforms adjacent to Google -- i.e. Amazon, Facebook, and Apple – companies Europe collectively refers to as “GAFA” particularly in the context of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy.

In 2011, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt was the first to identify, and publicly bring attention to, these particular four dominant consumer technology companies “exploiting platform strategies” ironically by branding them the “gang of four.

The EU Strategy behind its Three Google Antitrust Cases

With the EU’s new advertising antitrust charges against Google, the EU has now issued three Google abuse-of-dominance Statement of Objections covering search, mobile, and advertising, that actually span seven separately defined antitrust markets in the EU.   

So what does this strategically-critical new EU-Google advertising Statement of Objections -- that builds upon the other two statements of objection – finally tell us about the EU’s overall Google antitrust strategy?


Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths