It was Sunday evening on Twitter when I first heard about the then reported story of AT&T selling off WarnerMedia to Discovery and was confused by what was happening.
That confusion was still there when on Monday, the merger of the two companies was made official. The Dallas telecom company is getting out of their failed attempt of competing in the entertainment and streaming content game after making years of business moves that have ruined this iconic studios name.
This is why they’re selling to Discovery for $43 billion, just over half of the $85 billion that AT&T spent just two-and-a-half years ago. That’s how bad things have gotten.
To help me understand, I’ve been reading and watching things about this subject from Brandon Katz’s Observer piece, Allison Keene at Paste Magazine wrote a brilliant “5 Things To Know”, and as for YouTube videos The John Campea Show and Robert Meyer Burnett’s The Burrnettwork.
These are great things to understand this whole deal better, and want to learn more about this merger.
My favourite part of this whole story is how it came about, and it’s as old Hollywood as it possibly gets as the Financial Times revealed it all started in February round a game of golf between Discovery chief executive David Zaslav and AT&T chief John Stankey.
The only other way it would be more old fashion would be both these men were in the masons.
It’s too early to talk or even speculate on the future of Warner Bros, and who will be joining Zaslav on the film side and, more importantly, their streaming service. They haven’t even got a name for the new company.
However, this news could affect the UK in two important ways.
In this area, Discovery as the foot over WarnerMedia as Discovery+ is already available worldwide compared to the WM lead HBO Max, especially in the UK.
This is because WarnerMedia had signed a deal to air their shows exclusively on Sky, and the BBC also broadcast some programs.
It’s safe to predict once this deal ends in 2024, the new streamer will keep the rights. However, I could see the new company trying to terminate the agreement two years earlier and offer Sky lucrative compensation for it.
This would give the new streamer a much more robust platform to compete with Netflix and Disney+. Mixing their world-class and iconic shows and films from the HBO/Warner Bros back catalogue and Discovery’s binge-worthy unscripted shows.
What would also boost the upcoming new streaming service in the UK would be combing Discovery+ with Eurosport Player, so as well as the above two would give something to UK audiences that only Amazon could provide.
This leads me to the second point as this new company could compete with the likes of Sky for broadcasting rights to the Premier League, especially if BT Sport is up for sale.
Sports are becoming a more lucrative revenue for streamers, and getting BT Sport would be a fantastic acquisition.
Similar to AT&T in the US, BT is looking to focus on building superfast broadband for the whole of the UK and will cost a reported £12.5 billion (via The Guardian) and will need to raise funds for this adventure and this is after BT Sport has been a success.
The issue they run against is they’ll have serious competition in Disney, Amazon and DAZN.
If the deal happened, they could easily merge Eurosport and BT Sport to form a new sports broadcaster, which would have the financial backing to compete with Sky.
What might be of interest to the Premier League is more exposure in the US in the form of Turner Sports (or whatever it’ll be called) and be strong competition towards NBC Sports. Additionally, they could bring more eyes to other UK sports like Premiership Rugby.
In return, this new company could look into using their NBA rights and bring them over.
Interesting note, this new company would own the rights to the two biggest wrestling promotions in the US with All Elite Wrestling in the States on TBS/TNT and WWE in the UK.
It would also give WWE a reason to strike a similar deal with the new companies streaming service as they’ve done with NBCUniversal and Peacock by moving the WWE Network exclusively to them, making it even more of a must-buy for UK audiences.
Could you imagine the pitch or the advertising in a couple of years?
“Discover the wonder of Warner Premiere. The home of iconic TV, gold standard movies, bingeable shows, world-class sport and the exclusive home of the biggest sports entertainment company in the world, WWE.
“You can watch all this under one roof, Warner Premiere.”
Time will tell with all of this as it’s unlikely anything will happen before 2022, when the deal will likely get approved by the US government. It will probably take another six months to a year to see the change in the UK.