Forming streaming giant: WarnerMedia, Discovery to merge

NEW YORK (AFP) – United States (US) telecommunications firm AT&T announced on Monday a merger between its WarnerMedia unit – which owns CNN and HBO – and Discovery media, creating a streaming giant that could compete with Netflix and Disney+.

When the deal is finalised, AT&T will receive USD43 billion and AT&T’s shareholders will take stock representing 71 per cent of the new company, with Discovery shareholders owning 29 per cent.

In a joint statement, the merger was described as creating “one of the largest global streaming players”.

The deal will “combine WarnerMedia’s premium entertainment, sports and news assets with Discovery’s leading non-fiction and international entertainment and sports businesses to create a premier, standalone global entertainment company”, the companies said. The transaction could create a rival to challenge industry leaders Netflix and Disney+, which have seen subscriber numbers surge during the pandemic.

A slowdown in the growth of the Disney empire’s streaming platform between January and March, however, made investors fret and caused the group’s shares to plunge last week.

AT&T bought Time Warner in 2018 for USD80 billion, then renamed it WarnerMedia, which owns HBO, Warner Bros studios and cable channels such as CNN.

Discovery has channels in 220 countries, according to its website.

WarnerMedia had net sales of USD30.4 billion in 2020, and Discovery – which owns Eurosport – USD10.7 billion.

People pass an AT&T store in New York’s Times Square. PHOTO: AP