What to Watch Next in AT&T Case: Turner, Dish Take Witness Stand

(Bloomberg) -- The top executive of Turner Broadcasting and the head of Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV are slated to testify Monday as U.S. antitrust enforcers resume their court fight against AT&T Inc.’s proposed takeover of Time Warner Inc.

The Justice Department is planning to call Sling TV Group President Warren Schlichting, and John Martin, the chief executive officer of Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting.

The pair will be the most high-profile witnesses yet in the trial over the $85 billion deal. They follow testimony from a Cox Communications Inc. executive Thursday who said she fears that if AT&T acquires Time Warner it will gain leverage over Cox in programming negotiations.

The government is trying to make its case that the deal will give AT&T the power to raise prices on rival pay-TV distributors, which will in turn pass them on to consumers at a cost of more than $400 million a year.

Buying Time Warner, according to the Justice Department, will also give AT&T the tools to undermine emerging competition from online video providers like Sling TV, Dish’s online TV service. Expect Schlichting to support that part of the government’s case.

AT&T dismisses the Justice Department’s argument that it’s trying to strangle new rivals. Instead, it says, the deal would benefit consumers by allowing the resulting company to adapt and take on Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. with new products.

The government hasn’t divulged a schedule for the remaining witnesses it plans to call. University of California Berkeley economist Carl Shapiro is expected to be a key witness for the Justice Department’s case because he’ll explain how he came up with the estimate for higher consumer costs resulting from the deal.

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