In a surprise move that’s sure to make waves in the media landscape, Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia are planning to merge in a US$43-billion deal that’s set to close in 2022. The new organization will act as a standalone entity led by Discovery’s president & CEO, David Zaslav (pictured).
Under the agreement terms, AT&T will receive US$43 billion and control a 71% share in the new company, with Discovery owning the remaining 29%.
The new conglom will bring together media units including WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, and Discovery’s Food Network and HGTV. And its combined programming library will contain nearly 200,000 hours spanning more than 100 popular brands, according to a release.
The merger should also allow the two media giants to accelerate their nascent streaming plans—Discovery launched discovery+ earlier this year, while HBO Max is nearing its one-year anniversary. There were no plans at press time to combine the two services.
No details are available yet on how the leadership teams and content creators at WarnerMedia and Discovery may come together, and there was also no word at press time on what role WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar will play.
Discovery predicts the merged company will generate US$52 billion in revenue by 2023. Cost-cutting measures are on the horizon, as there’s an estimated US$3 billion in direct overlap between the two organizations, but these savings will be redirected into new content and digital innovation, and supporting the international growth of the two SVODs, according to a release.
Executives emphasized in releases and on investor calls that they plan to spend more money on original content and create new opportunities for underrepresented storytellers and indie creators. Collectively, the two organizations currently spend around US$20 billion a year on film and television content.
This merger comes as the global media landscape grapples with a linear-to-streaming shift and an increasingly competitive market for audience share, said Zaslav and AT&T chief John Stankey on an investor call this morning.