July 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday it will appeal a federal judge's approval of AT&T's merger with Time Warner.
The Justice Department filed a court notice that it is appealing U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's ruling to OK the $85.4 billion merger.
The department offered no additional comment beyond the one-sentnce filing.
AT&T General Counsel David McAtee issued a statement defending the original ruling.
"The court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned," McAtee said. "While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the court's decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals."
Leon advised the Justice Department not to seek an appeal, when he approved the merger -- which AT&T said was necessary to survive in an industry with competition from Netflix and Facebook -- in June.
"I do not believe that the government has a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal," he wrote in his ruling. "The government has had this merger on hold, the video programming and distribution industry has continued to evolve at a breakneck pace."
The Department of Justice challenged the merger on the grounds that it would restrict pay-TV competition.
The deal was finalized two days after Leon's approval, allowing AT&T -- which owns DirecTV -- to acquire Time Warner and its properties including CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT.