AT&T’s $49 Billion Acquisition of DirecTV to Get Regulatory Approval

It would be the year’s biggest media deal, report says

Step aside, Verizon and AOL.

If AT&T succeeds in its $49 billion dollar bid to acquire DirecTV, the match will be the year’s biggest media deal—an order of magnitude larger than the $4.4 billion Verizon agreed to shell out for AOL earlier this year. Even in the parallel universe where Comcast’s botched $45 billion Time Warner Cable takeover was a triumph, this deal is still bigger.

What’s more: the match—originally proposed in May 2014—seems very likely to go through. The deal is all but inked, reports The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources.

Regulators from the Federal Communications Commissions are apparently in the midst of wrapping up their review of AT&T’s potential purchase. The company already has clearance from the Department of Justice. All that’s left is for the FCC’s five commissioners, including chairman Tom Wheeler, to formally submit their approval.

As Journal reporter Thomas Gryta notes:

The transaction will make AT&T the nation’s largest pay television provider in addition to the second biggest wireless carrier at a time when companies are trying to figure out how best to handle the massive shifts among media companies as video consumption moves online. The combination will pair AT&T’s regional U-verse pay TV business with DirecTV’s satellite operation, which is nationwide but lacks a robust broad band offering.

Previously, AT&T lost $4 billion and failed to win approval for an attempted T-Mobile takeover in 2011. This time round? Apparently things are going much more smoothly.

TIME Music

Hear an Unreleased Track by Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar That Just Got Leaked

The song was never officially released due to creative differences

Fans of Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar have every reason to rejoice as a much-hyped but never-released track the pair collaborated on back in 2012 has been leaked on the web.

The long-lost “Party Nauseous” was recorded for K-Dot’s good kid, m.A.A.d city album three years ago but it was shelved due to creative differences with the rapper’s management, writes Stereogum.

Writing on her fan site Little Monsters in 2012, Lady Gaga said she “was not willing to compromise musically to the changes his team was making to my music.”

Gaga re-purposed parts of the song for her ARTPOP tour last year but now fans can finally listen to the track in its entirety.


Caution: Track contains some profanity

MONEY Internet

Why Companies Think .sucks Web Addresses Suck

Trademark holders have until the end of May before someone else has the right to buy their .sucks domains and make them live.

TIME movies

Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig Scrap Secret Project After Plans Leak Online

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 13: In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal, Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell on stage to present the Best Actress - Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical award during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel International Ballroom on January 13, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
Handout—2013 NBCUniversal/Getty Images In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal, Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell on stage to present the Best Actress - Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical award during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel International Ballroom on January 13, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.

The Internet just spoilt it for everyone

Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig won’t be making that secret Lifetime movie they didn’t tell you they were making, because someone told the Internet they were making it.

News of the under-the-radar film leaked online on Wednesday, Entertainment Weekly reports, prompting the two comics to abandon the project.

Ferrell said in a statement to EW that he was “deeply disappointed” at the leak. “Kristen and I have decided it is in the best interest for everyone to forego the project entirely, and we thank Lifetime and all the people who were ready to help us make this film,” he said.

Read more at Entertainment Weekly

TIME Addiction

It’s Really Easy for Teens to Buy E-Cigs Online

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Most popular e-cigarette sites fail to verify the age of their clients, finds a new study

Young people under age 18 can buy e-cigarettes online, even in states where it’s illegal, a new study shows.

North Carolina researchers asked 11 teens between ages 14 to 17 who didn’t smoke to try to buy e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular Internet vendors. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina is illegal—but of the 98 orders, only five were rejected based on a failed age verification. Eighteen orders failed for problems unrelated to age, like website issues. Overall, the minors made 75 successful orders.

The teens were also asked to answer the door when deliveries were made. None of the companies attempted to confirm age at delivery, and 95% of the time, the orders were just left at the teens’ doors.

The findings are concerning for any state trying to regulate youth access, the authors say. Currently, there’s no federal law forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, despite the fact that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that e-cigarettes fall under their regular tobacco regulation jurisdiction, but the proposal is still not a codified law. “It may be several years before federal regulations are implemented,” the study authors write.

Some states have stepped in and banned the sale to minors within their borders. So far 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands forbid such transactions, or have pending legislation to do so.

But as the new study suggests, young people can easily get e-cigarettes online if they want them. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

None of the vendors complied with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age-verification law. The majority of U.S. carriers, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, ban the delivery of cigarettes, only allowing the delivery of tobacco products from a licensed dealer or distributor to another licensed dealer or distributor. If these rules were extended to e-cigarettes, the study authors argue it would essentially shut down a major loophole in access.

Getting proposed rules like the FDA’s passed takes time, but when it comes to the safety of children, the researchers argue there needs to be more urgency. Prior data has shown that from 2011 to 2013, the number of young Americans who used e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes more than tripled, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The study authors conclude that the ease with which teens can get e-cigarettes online—in a state that forbids the practice—stresses the need for more regulation, and fast.

TIME Super Bowl

How to Watch the Super Bowl Online for Free

Super Bowl
Jonathan Ferrey—Getty Images Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks takes the field for the 2014 NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

Cord-cutters rejoice

In years past, trying to watch the Super Bowl online might have left you feeling deflated. But this year the cord-cutters among us have lots of solid options for streaming the big game.

Let’s take a look at your two best choices:

1. NBC’s livestream. Super Bowl broadcaster NBC is offering up a free livestream of Sunday’s game that starts well ahead of the 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff. And unlike lots of other TV streaming solutions, you won’t have to prove you’re a cable subscriber to tune in.

NBC is airing pre- and post-game coverage, the game itself and Katy Perry’s halftime show on desktop and tablets to promote its new TV everywhere plan. Desktop users can catch NBC’s Super Bowl coverage starting at noon ET Sunday on NBC.com; tablet users should download the NBC Sports Live Extra app for iOS or Android.

2. Via Verizon Wireless. NBC’s free stream won’t work on your phone because of an exclusive deal between the NFL and Verizon. If you happen to be a Verizon customer, you can stream the Super Bowl on your phone for free if you’ve got a More Everything plan; other Verizon customers will have to shell out $5 for the privilege. Either way, Verizon subscribers can use the NFL Mobile app for iOS or Android to catch the action.

So that’s it! Enjoy the Super Bowl, and remember that if you’re streaming the game on your computer, there are lots of good ways to beam it over to your big-screen TV.

TIME China

Agent Carter, Empire Gone From Chinese Streaming Sites

Kelsey McNeal/ABC Atwell as Peggy Carter in Agent Carter.

A crackdown on foreign media appears to have taken its toll

More U.S. television shows were removed from Chinese streaming services in what appears to be the latest consequences of the state censor’s crackdown on foreign series.

Shows like Agent Carter, Empire, and Shameless disappeared from multiple streaming portals this week, the L.A. Times reports.

Amid a campaign by the government of President Xi Jinping to sanitize the Internet in China, the country’s state censor, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said last year that foreign shows — which have soared in popularity in China — would require government approval for the entire series before episodes aired online. Foreign series, the regulator also said, could only account for one third of programming on the online streaming sites, according to the Times.

Since then, shows like The Big Bang Theory have been pulled from streaming sites, typically without explanation.

Despite the rancor on social media after the latest purge, it remained unclear why the specific shows were removed, according to the Times.

[LA Times]

TIME movies

Here’s Where You Can Watch Oscar-Nominated Movies Online

See 'Boyhood' and 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' from the comfort of your own home

Following the revelation of the 2015 Oscar nominations Thursday morning, the race has begun to see the nominated films before the Feb. 22 Academy Awards broadcast.

Although many films including Birdman and American Sniper are only available on the big screen, some Academy-favorites are available to watch online. Here’s an alphabetical list of every Oscar-nominated movie you can watch from the comfort of your own home:

Begin Again: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Original Song (Lost Stars)

The Boxtrolls: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Animated Feature

Boyhood: Amazon, iTunes
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke), Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Visual Effects

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1: Amazon, HBO
Nomination: Best Documentary Short

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Visual Effects

Finding Vivian Maier: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Gone Girl: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Actress (Rosamund Pike)

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Amazon, iTunes
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design

Guardians of the Galaxy: Amazon, iTunes
Nominations: Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects

How to Train Your Dragon 2: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Animated Feature

Ida: Amazon, iTunes, Netflix
Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film

The LEGO Movie: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Original Song (Everything is Awesome)

The Judge: Amazon, iTunes
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)

Last Days in Vietnam: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

Maleficent: Amazon, iTunes
Nominations: Best Costume Design

Virunga: Netflix
Nomination: Best Documentary Feature

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Amazon, iTunes
Nomination: Best Visual Effects

Read next: This is the Full List of Oscar Nominations

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

What Your Online Persona Says About Who You Really Are

Getty Images

Does who you are online match who you are in real life? A new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that avatars, the little icons you can customize in video games and Internet forums, are pretty good depictions of the people who created them.

Since more and more people meet and develop friendships and relationships online, researchers at York University in Toronto looked into whether the impressions people get from avatars, like the kind you use on Nintendo Wii and World of Warcraft, are true reflections of the real-life players they’re interacting with. To measure this, the researchers had about 1oo people create an avatar representation of themselves, and then asked nearly 200 others to rate the avatars on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The results show that traits like being outgoing or anxious are pretty easy to assess, but other traits like conscientiousness and openness to new experiences are more difficult. People with agreeable traits were better able to get their personalities across through their avatars than narcissists.

Katrina FongExample of avatars used in the study

Specific physical traits of the online characters helped translate personalities more than others. Smiles, brown hair, sweaters and open eyes were more likely to come across as friendly and inviting, compared to avatars with neutral expressions or those that didn’t smile. Avatars with black hair, a hat, short hair or sunglasses were less likely to come across as friendly or desiring friendship.

Interestingly, the people in the study didn’t seem to apply usual gender stereotypes to the avatars, though avatars made by females were rated as more open and contentious over all. The researchers speculate that perhaps the digital realm has gender stereotypes that differ from the ones we more commonly experience offline.

“The findings from this study suggest that we can use virtual proxies such as avatars to accurately infer personality information about others,” the study authors conclude. “The impressions we make on others online may have an important impact on our real life, such as who becomes intrigued by the possibility of our friendship.”


3 Moves to Cut Your Cable Bill Right Now

Roger Lynch, chief executive officer for Sling TV LLC, speaks at a press conference during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Dish Network Corp. plans to unveil the first major online television service from a cable or satellite company, a $20-a-month set of 12 channels that targets U.S. customers who don't want to pay for larger, more expensive TV packages. ]
Michael Nagle—Bloomberg via Getty Images Roger Lynch, chief executive officer for Sling TV LLC, speaks at a press conference during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015.

The annoying fees on your monthly Internet-TV bill probably just rose. But there's an easy trick to stop paying some fees entirely. There's also a new way to cut your bill down to just $20 a month.

According to the NPD Group, the average pay TV subscription package in the U.S. cost $86 per month in 2011, and projections call for that figure to hit $200 as soon as 2020. Thankfully, however, we may never get there. And there’s no reason you personally should be anywhere near there. The emergence of more options for cord cutters and a long-awaited increase in competition from satellite and streaming upstarts should loosen pay TV giants’ stranglehold on America’s monthly TV bills.

Lowering your pay TV bill is very possible right now, though it’s up to you to take action. Here are three suggestions, based on recent shifts in what’s being offered in the marketplace:

1. Buy Your Own Modem
How much you’ll save: $96 to $120 a year

Cable TV companies have been experiencing a net loss of subscribers, and it’s no mystery why: The combination of awful customer service and rising monthly bills from pay TV giants, plus expanded streaming options for Internet-only viewing, have together chased consumers away from traditional bloated and overpriced pay TV packages.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable understand that blatantly jacking up monthly package prices is likely to turn even more customers into cord cutters. So as a sneaky alternative, both just hiked an assortment of fees instead. Specifically, both raised the rental fees for customers using the company’s modems. You might not even notice the fee on your bill because the word “modem” isn’t stated; instead a vague “Voice/data Equipment” line item is listed. For Comcast customers, that line item went up from $8 to $10 per month at the start of the year. Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, raised its monthly modem fee from $5.99 to $8, a hike of over 30%, while also boosting the monthly nickel-and-dime sports channel fee (on top of your regular package price) from $2.25 to $2.75.

These bill hikes may seem like small potatoes—a few bucks extra per month—but they’re galling nonetheless because they’re cash cows for pay TV companies and, in the case of the modem at least, there’s an easy way to drop the fee to $0. David Lazarus, the consumer beat columnist for the Los Angeles Times, noted that anyone can simply purchase a Time Warner-compatible modem for $90 to $130 rather than leasing one. By raising modem fees, the pay TV companies give customers more reason than ever to go this route, as the investment will pay off sooner, roughly in a year. (Lazarus also pointed out the shady way that Time Warner Cable upgraded customer modems “for free” recently, only to follow up with a monthly fee hike; it’s just this sort of deceptive double talk that insults customers’ intelligence and will push subscribers away, if for no other reason than spite.)

A Motley Fool post reports that both Comcast and Time Warner Cable have web pages that list modems available for purchase that will work with their respective Internet services. In some cases, compatible modems cost as little $70, the same amount you’d pay to rent one from Comcast for just seven months.

2. Switch to Dish’s Sling TV $20 Streaming Package
How much you’ll save: $360 or more per year

On Monday, the Dish Network announced a new streaming service that could very well upend pay TV as we know it. It’s a streaming service called Sling TV that offers an online package of 11 channels for $20 per month. The package includes TNT, TBS, HGTV, CNN, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and, most importantly, ESPN and ESPN2. ESPN is by far the most valuable cable channel, and the prospect of losing live sports broadcasts is believed to be what’s stopped millions of subscribers from dumping their pay TV packages. “Sports is the one thing keeping many people on pay-TV services,” one analyst told Bloomberg News. That changes with the arrival of Sling TV, however, as sports fans can cut the cord and still get the two best sports channels (plus a few other channels probably enjoyed by the rest of the family) for a mere $20.

While 11 channels may seem paltry in light of the 189 channels available in the average pay TV household, bear in mind that most people only tune into only 17 channels, and some watch far fewer. When the basic 11-channel package is combined with an on-demand streaming service like Netflix and/or HBO’s standalone Go package—both of which will be available without a traditional pay TV package in 2015—you can have access to a robust selection of viewing options while still significantly cutting your monthly bill.

3. Buy an Antenna for Broadcast Networks
How much you’ll save: $72 or more per year

The one problem some—sports fans in particular—might have with the Sling TV option is that it doesn’t include access to the big “free” broadcast networks such as Fox and CBS, which at least for the time being retain most rights to air NFL games. The easy fix is to pay $30 to $100 for an HD antenna, which will provide up to 30 local TV channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS) in crystal clear clarity, for free.

Pay TV providers like Comcast offer basic TV packages that include only broadcast networks such as those listed above, but they’ll charge you for those “free channels,” to the tune of $6 or more per month.

Read next:
How to Break Up with Your Cable Company
5 Packages That Will Replace Pay TV as We Know It

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