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AT&T’s Warner Media & Discovery Inc closing in on merger?

Deal talks are at an advanced stage and a new firm combining the two is to be set up.

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Mumbai: The growing power of Netflix, Disney and Amazon and other larger media entities is forcing strange alliances on the industry. US telecom giant AT&T, which acquired Warner Media (then named Time Warner) for around $85 billion in 2018 is all set to fuse Warner Media with Discovery Inc, which itself is valued at around $16 billion with an enterprise valuation of $30 billion. That’s according to a report by US business news channel CNBC.

The purpose: the two want to stay relevant in the new media ecosystem in which billions of dollars are being spent on content on customer acquisition and retention.

A new publicly traded company holding the combined assets is to be created with ownership lying with the two media giants’ shareholders. CNBC stated that insiders had informed the channel that a deal is likely to be announced Monday sometime. But it also said no one was willing to come on record on what the stock holding split would be like. It also added that the deal – while it was in the final stages – may even fall through.

Earlier Bloomberg had reported that the two were in talks to combine the two firms to form a giant media conglomerate.

AT&T houses brands like CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, and the Warner Bros. studio. Discovery owns networks such as HGTV, Food Network, TLC, and Animal Planet. If such a deal were to be completed, it would be the largest media merger since Viacom and CBS combined their businesses to form ViacomCBS in December 2019.

Both companies have recently entered the streaming wars. With a platter of content in entertainment, lifestyle, the combined company can create a better international footprint. Moreover, it can emerge as a strong rival to players like Disney, Netflix which are turning out to be more aggressive every day in the streaming war.

However, there is no information yet on how the assets will be combined. Despite the ongoing discussion, there is no certainty at this moment that it would lead to an actual transaction, Bloomberg reported.

The report also comes amid the speculation over Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s Warner Media merger after research firm LightShed Partners said both the entities should be spun off and merged for long-term health.

Back in February, AT&T sold 30 per cent of satellite pay-TV operator DirecTV to private equity firm TPG to offload its debt, largely caused by its acquisition spree in the last few years.

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