DirecTV Shareholders Sign Off On AT&T Merger

att-logo2While the rest of the world waits for regulators in D.C. to decide if AT&T and DirecTV should be allowed to live together in wedded bliss, one group of people has already given their blessing to the deal.

DirecTV announced this morning that its shareholders have voted to approve the $49 billion merger, which would combine the nation’s largest satellite TV company with the second-largest wireless provider. According to the company, the vote was 99% in favor of the deal.

AT&T, whose U-Verse pay-TV and broadband service has yet to make a huge impact on the subscription TV market, would inherit DirecTV’s 20 million or so paying subscribers, while also allowing it to offer bundles of wireless and wireline phone and data service to those consumers.

Meanwhile, DirecTV would presumably be able to offer a broadband service to customers that is not as cost prohibitive or restrictive as current satellite-based Internet service. Earlier this month, the head of AT&T’s wireless division said the company has technology “ready to go” that could deliver reasonably high-speed wireless broadband to rural DirecTV customers.

It still remains to be seen if that service would be affordable and/or come with data caps that keep it from being as useful as terrestrial broadband services.

In addition to regulatory review of the merger — which looks so far like it won’t be anywhere near as rigorous as the scrutiny placed on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal — there remains one huge issue that could keep these two from the altar.

DirecTV has long been the exclusive carrier for NFL Sunday Ticket, a pricey subscription service that airs all out-of-market Sunday day games, but the satellite company and the football league are currently trying to hammer out a new contract. If DirecTV is unable to retain Sunday Ticket — on which it makes little to no profit directly, but which is a huge reason for millions of subscribers to not jump ship to their local cable provider — or if Sunday Ticket is no longer exclusive to the satellite company, AT&T can walk away from the merger.

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