By The TV Answer Man team

TV Answer Man, if DIRECTV and Dish actually agreed to a merger, how long would it take for the feds to review it and approve it? People seem to forget that that would need to happen first. — Aaron, Portland, Oregon.
Aaron, the possibility that DIRECTV and Dish will merge has been rumored for years since the companies combined have lost approximately 18 million subscribers in the last eight years. (Dish has lost five million; DIRECTV has lost 13 million.) The companies actually did merge once but it was rejected by the FCC in 2002 on grounds that it would be anti-competitive.

Even now when the video industry is far more competitive than it was 21 years ago, federal regulators would likely take a close look at a merger of the nation’s two top satellite TV services. But how long would it take for such a review to be completed so the merged companies could begin operations as one? Here’s a look at the very, very cumbersome process:
Understanding the Regulatory Landscape
Any merger or acquisition involving major companies, especially in the telecommunications sector, is subject to scrutiny by regulatory bodies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). These agencies evaluate the potential impact of the merger on competition, consumers, and the industry as a whole.

Initial Filing and Review
The process typically begins with the merging parties submitting a merger proposal and related documents to the regulatory agencies. The FCC, being the primary authority in this case, conducts an initial review to assess the potential impact on consumers, market competition, and diversity of media voices. This phase can take several months as regulators meticulously analyze the merger’s implications.
Public Comment Period
Following the initial review, there is a public comment period during which various stakeholders, including consumers, competitors, and advocacy groups, can express their opinions about the merger. This period allows regulators to gather valuable insights and concerns from those directly affected by the merger, contributing to their decision-making process.

Regulatory Evaluation and Negotiations
After the public comment period, the regulatory agencies delve deeper into the details of the merger proposal. They may engage in negotiations with the merging parties, seeking concessions or divestitures to address potential antitrust concerns. This phase involves a thorough evaluation of the merger’s potential impact on market competition, pricing, and consumer choice.

Final Decision Could Take 12-18 Months
The final decision-making phase involves the regulatory agencies deliberating on all available information, public comments, and negotiations. They assess whether the merger aligns with the public interest and competitive market dynamics. This phase often includes internal discussions, legal consultations, and rigorous analysis. The agencies may approve the merger with certain conditions or deny it altogether if they believe it could harm competition and consumers. If it is rejected, the companies could then go to court to seek an appeal, adding even more time to the process.

While the DIRECTV-Dish Network merger holds the promise of reshaping the telecommunications landscape, the road to regulatory approval is complex and time-consuming. The entire process, from the initial filing to the final decision, can span approximately 12 to 18 months or even longer, depending on the complexities involved and the need for extensive evaluations and negotiations. That means if Dish and DIRECTV were to merge this month, it might be early 2025 before the new satellite TV company could get to work. And both companies would likely have lost a few million more subscribers in the interim.

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