AT&T / DIRECTV — is the deal done?

Will it happen tomorrow? Buzzfeed thinks so. In an article posted today, the pop culture site makes the claim that the deal is done and that it will be announced to the world before the open of the trading day. This is a story that has unfolded quickly and has drawn the attention of techies of all stripes. Imaginations have raged on thinking of the potential synergy between a company that has broadband lines in much of the country and the world’s largest pay television provider.

The details are still sketchy, with some folks naturally imagining that all DIRECTV users will get free broadband while others assume that all of AT&T’s contracts currently in place (such as those for WatchESPN and the Pac-12 network) will transfer over to DIRECTV, leading to a bonanza of new content for DIRECTV users. Here’s what we can guarantee will happen next:

Nothing.

First of all nothing will happen without regulatory approval. This will take many months, and the FCC’s decision on a potential Comcast/Time Warner Cable merge could weigh heavily on the DIRECTV decision. Be prepared to tread water for a good long time while this all gets sorted out.

Then, we need to listen carefully to DIRECTV and AT&T press releases, because the fact is that it’s possible that nothing will change at all. AT&T may consider DIRECTV a separate business unit and do nothing to merge it with its Uverse operation. Other than potential bundle pricing for DIRECTV subscribers, we may see nothing change.

Even in a “best case scenario” where DIRECTV and Uverse merge operations in some way, there will still be a long period of transition where everyone works together to get policies, hardware, contracts, and services to link up. Don’t expect that any Uverse contracts will transfer over to DIRECTV; it’s more likely that new contracts will be negotiated in their own time as old ones expire, and only when all the contracts are negotiated will be see some consistency between the land-based and sky-based programming packages.

What will certainly happen if the deal happens, is that DIRECTV will have access to AT&T’s massive bankroll, and that means increased negotiating power. That power may be needed if Comcast surpasses DIRECTV as the nation’s largest pay-TV provider.

No matter what, it’s going to be interesting.