The very public war of words – and GIFs – between the President of the United States and CNN could pose a threat to the $85bn merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
Apparently, White House advisors have been looking at using approval of the merger as a "potential point of leverage" over the news network.
While the two media giants have managed to sidestep most of the approval process by keeping the deal out of the hands of the FCC, the merger still requires the approval of the Department of Justice, and as such the process could at least be delayed by the Trump administration.
The President has been in a bizarre public spat with Time Warner-owned CNN for what he feels is unfairly critical coverage of his administration. This most recently manifested with the leader of the free world posting a doctored GIF image of him attacking a person with the CNN logo as a head. The news network has condemned the post as a call for violence against the press.
Despite attempts to delegitimize journalists, Americans still mostly trust CNN over Trump, according to one poll.
Meanwhile, Time Warner and AT&T have been planning to merge to create a media behemoth that would allow AT&T to push further into the television market by teaming up its DirecTV service with Time Warner's popular cable TV lineup, including CNN, HBO, and Warner Brothers.
It would also allow AT&T to bolster its own advertising networks and services by tapping into viewer data generated by the Time Warner TV networks and studios.
The deal does not include the independent Time Warner Cable business, and local TV licenses were omitted in order to skirt FCC scrutiny.
While the merger had originally been seen as a hard sell to regulators, the parade of business-friendly appointments made by the Trump administration paved the way for an easy path to approval. ®