Within days of learning that Comcast Corp. planned a deal that would make the biggest U.S. cable company an even larger competitor, AT&T Inc.’s chief executive officer was planning his response.

Randall Stephenson reached out to his counterpart at DirecTV soon after learning of Comcast’s effort to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Just three months later, AT&T struck a $48.5 billion deal to acquire DirecTV and combine the national satellite-TV provider with AT&T’s wireless, phone and high-speed Internet services.

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