Turner CEO Martin to Testify in AT&T Antitrust Trial

(Bloomberg) -- A top Time Warner Inc. executive will testify Wednesday in Washington federal court as the company fights the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit seeking to block its sale to AT&T Inc.

John Martin, the chief executive officer of Turner Broadcasting, should be on the witness stand for the most of the day. He’s the first witness in the case from one of the merging companies, rather than an AT&T competitor opposed to the merger.

One of the central issues in the trial is whether Turner’s content -- including TBS, TNT and CNN -- is so important that it would allow AT&T to gain unfair leverage in programming negotiations with pay-TV distributors as a result of the merger.

That’s what Dish Network Corp. executive Warren Schlichting testified about earlier this week. AT&T and Time Warner have tried to downplay the importance of Time Warner’s content, pointing out that many other major sporting events are broadcast by other networks such as ESPN or CBS and not by Turner’s TBS and TNT.

The Justice Department will probably press Martin to acknowledge that Turner’s content is must-have for pay-TV distributors, particularly sports programming like the March Madness college basketball tournament and the NBA playoffs.

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