AT&T's Randall Stephenson says chances of a successful DOJ appeal are 'remote': 'This changes nothing'

  • The Justice Department plans to appeal AT&T's $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner.
  • The agency had previously declined to seek a stay, allowing the merger to close in mid-June.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that the chances of a successful DOJ appeal of the company's merger with Time Warner are "remote" and that the appeal "changes nothing."

The Justice Department plans to appeal AT&T's $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner, according to documents released Thursday. The agency had previously declined to seek a stay, allowing the merger to close in mid-June.

"This changes nothing we'll be doing over the next 30 days or the next 12 months. We're about executing our plan. We think the likelihood of this thing being reversed and overturned is really remote. It's a very narrow path that would have to be traveled to get this thing reversed in any way," Stephenson told CNBC's Julia Boorstin on Friday. "The merger is closed. We own Time Warner."

A federal judge ruled in June that the merger was legal, without conditions. The DOJ sued last year to block the merger, citing antitrust concerns that AT&T, owner of satellite television provider DirecTV, could charge rival distributors more for Time Warner content, resulting in higher prices for consumers.

AT&T has raised fees for its wireless and DirecTV Now customers since closing the merger. The company has also made several acquisitions to build out its media and advertising operations. In June it bought digital advertising company AppNexus for a reported $1.6 billion.

The merger grants AT&T ownership of HBO and CNN, along with a stake in Hulu and its existing DirecTV services. AT&T executives have outlined an aggressive plan for HBO.

"The more engagement you have the more opportunity you have to create value," Stephenson said of AT&T's new media properties. "When people hear that they say, 'That means they're going to be pumping a lot more content into HBO.' Maybe. But we're looking at a lot of different avenues for driving engagement. We have a lot of digital properties."

Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.