Discovery Inc., a leader in unscripted television programs such as “Shark Tank” and “Fixer Upper,” has acquired a 29-percent share of AT&T’s WarnerMedia division in a deal valued at $43 billion, according to various reports.
WarnerMedia will be merged into Discovery, with AT&T shareholders, not AT&T itself, owning the other 71 percent of the new company.
With the purchase, Discovery adds CNN, HBO, and the Warner Brothers movie studio, among other venues, to its growing media empire that already includes Animal Planet, the Food Network, HGTV, and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network among its stable of properties.
The new company becomes the second-largest media conglomerate in the country by revenue, after the Walt Disney Co., and could have a market value of $100 billion or more, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Discovery and WarnerMedia together tallied $41 billion in sales last year, with operating profits topping $10 billion. It expects streaming services to account for $15 billion in sales.
The new company has predicted $52 billion in sales and $14 billion in operating profits by the end of next year and will spend $20 billion to create original content, it said in announcing the merger.
Discovery’s programs will now account for 29 percent of television viewing time and 20 percent of the monthly fees networks receive from cable and dish subscribers, media analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson, calculated in figures reported by the WSJ.
“In businesses like global distribution and creation of content, scale is the name of the game,” John Malone, a key Discovery shareholder, told the WSJ, especially as TV viewers forsake cable for online streaming services.
With the purchase and the content Discovery creates, the company is betting it can achieve the scale to compete with Netflix and other streamers, Malone said.
AT&T paid $85 billion to buy TimeWarner in 2018 at a time when TV viewers were migrating from cable and dish gear to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.
In April, Discovery reported 15 million customers for its streaming services; AT&T has about 44.2 million, the company said. In contrast, Netflix claimed 207 million as of April and Disney+ 103 million.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav engineered the deal.
Zaslav, a former NBCUniversal executive, came to Discovery in 2007, took the company public in 2008, and grew its revenue from $3.5 billion in 2009 to $10.7 billion in 2020.
In return, his median compensation has averaged around $42 million, according to the WSJ, Zaslav’s 2018 compensation totaled $130 million in 2018 with special rewards included in his new employment contract.
TREND FORECAST: Once again, the Bigs are getting bigger and the rich getting richer. Moreover, on the so-called “news spectrum,” in the U.S., where six companies control over 90 percent of the media world, with few in control and the medium being the message… the only message that will be heard is what they are selling.
And, as we have reported, whether in the U.S. or around the world, the mainstream media takes political and socioeconomic positions on critical issues rather than reporting the facts and objectively analyzing the implications.