"I conclude the government has failed to meet its burden of proof", Leon said.
The court's decision was also anxiously awaited by Comcast, which was reportedly waiting for an all-clear signal before it steps up with an all-cash offer for 21st Century Fox's key assets, potentially derailing a deal with Disney. That deal now faces a higher likelihood of regulatory approval.
Legacy companies, such as Comcast and Fox (or Fox and Disney, as the case may be), will be able to more easily combine forces and compete with a potent combination of content and distribution against the tech overlords in Silicon Valley. With no phones or computers allowed into the courtroom, and attendees required to stay until after the judge had left the courtroom, the public was left in the dark for almost 40 minutes Tuesday afternoon as they awaited the decision.
Twenty-First Century Fox, which has garnered interest from Disney and Comcast, saw its shares climb 4.6 percent, to $42.25, in after-hours trading.
A Comcast spokesperson declined to comment.
The two then had a long lunch in the Time Warner dining room in NY and agreed that their industries were under siege.
The AT&T logo on a retail store.
Leon ruled that AT&T can buy all of Time Warner without any conditions, such as selling certain assets or agreeing to refrain from raising prices.
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"We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner", said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.
Trump's antitrust lawyers and regulators have not pursued a consistent line against increased consolidation; under newly elevated Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, the FCC has swept away many regulations limiting how many stations a single company can own.
The companies' main economist, Dennis Carlton from the University of Chicago, refuted Shapiro's model as overly complicated and rejected his conclusions.
The merger, including debt, would be the fourth largest deal ever attempted in the global telecom, media and entertainment space, according to Thomson Reuters data.
As one carrot to get deal approval, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson mentioned in court that AT&T will be debuting a new skinny streaming service in the near future. "It's illogical. It's why we did the deal".
Once president, Trump regularly called CNN "fake news" and posted on Twitter in July 2017 a doctored video of him beating up a supposed CNN journalist.
The Justice Department has six days to ask the judge to stay his ruling, though Leon said he hoped the government would have the "good judgment, wisdom and the courage" not to do so.
Leon said the government's theory that the merger would give the combined company too much leverage in programming negotiations was "plagued by inconsistencies" and contradicted by the Justice Department's own evidence. The companies then entered into discussions with the DOJ a year ago and rumors surfaced that the agency had suggested some divestitures in order for AT&T to avoid an antitrust lawsuit.