AT&T Poised to Acquire DirecTV

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Updated: Mon, 19 May 2014 05:30:54 EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- AT&T is poised to acquire America's biggest satellite television provider, DirecTV, in a deal worth almost $50 billion.

The boards of the two companies were meeting on Sunday to approve the plan, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meetings. The deal could be announced as soon as Sunday afternoon.

The combination of AT&T and DirecTV would continue a wave of consolidation in the television and telecommunications industries. Comcast, the nation's biggest cable provider, is currently awaiting regulatory approval for its plan to merge with Time Warner Cable. And the parent company of wireless provider Sprint, SoftBank, is trying to buy T-Mobile.

Representatives of AT&T and DirecTV did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday and Sunday. But CNNMoney viewed portions of a internal presentation extolling the virtues of the deal for shareholders of the two companies. The slideshow's veracity was corroborated by one of the people who prepared it.

The transaction "creates content distribution leader across mobile, video and broadband platforms," one of the slides of the presentation says.

The presentation uses codenames like "Project Star" for the AT&T-DirecTV acquisition. It says that the two companies face "competitive disadvantages over time" and will be better able to compete as a combined entity. For example, DirecTV's satellites can't provide the kind of high-speed Internet connections that consumers increasingly demand, but AT&T can.

In a sentence that seemed written for the Washington regulators that will review the deal, the presentation asserts that the combined company will be able to provide Internet access in areas where it currently doesn't. Blanket access to the Internet has been a priority of the Obama administration.

The presentation predicts that the DirecTV acquisition will "pass muster" with regulators. That is no surprise, since the companies wouldn't move forward unless they thought it would be approved.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on talks between the two companies on May 1. BuzzFeed reported on Saturday that the two companies could announce the deal on Sunday.

Comcast's mid-February announcement about merging with Time Warner Cable refocused attention on what the country's two big satellite distributors -- DirecTV and Dish Networ -- might do. Many analysts thought the most likely response was a tie-up of DirecTV and Dish. AT&T stepped up instead.

Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, recently called the Comcast-Time Warner Cable combination an "industry redefining deal" that "creates an impressive business." Now it's his turn to attempt something similar.

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