AT&T could become a television giant, too, with a $50 billion DirecTV merger

The rumors keep escalating. AT&T might be willing to pay $100 a share to acquire DirecTV, one of the nation’s few satellite TV operators, according to Bloomberg. The deal would amount to about $50 billion. That’s a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that another major deal announced this year, Comcast’s proposed bid for Time Warner Cable, comes to just over $45 billion — no small figure in itself, to be sure. If approved, the deal would create a big potential counterweight to an enlarged Comcast, leaving AT&T controlling about 28 million pay-TV subscribers and Comcast with 30 million. Each company would account for roughly one-third of the pay-TV marketplace.

The other large competitor in the satellite arena, Dish Network, took itself out of the running last week to acquire DirecTV, saying it couldn’t afford to outbid AT&T. Regulators reviewing the Comcast proposal — and now potentially AT&T’s — are supposed to assess each deal on its own merits. But it will be almost impossible for them to avoid thinking of one without weighing the consequences of the other.