Warner Bros. Discovery merger closes, creating global content behemoth

The newly combined Warner Bros. Discovery has begun trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange today, after the $43bn merger of Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia closed on Friday.

The closure of the deal brings WarnerMedia’s entertainment, sports and news assets under the same roof as Discovery’s array of factual entertainment offerings to create a $150bn content behemoth. The shock acquisition was first announced in May 2021, and was given the greenlight by Discovery shareholders just last month.

Warner Bros. Discovery now owns one of the deepest libraries in the world with nearly 200,000 hours of programming. It houses networks and brands including Discovery Channel, Warner Bros. Entertainment, CNN, CNN+, DC, Eurosport, HBO, HGTV, Food Network, Investigation Discovery, TLC, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies.

The new entity is also home to the global streamers HBO Max and Discovery+, which it has been confirmed will eventually be combined into one single service.

David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, and former president and CEO of Discovery, said: “Today’s announcement marks an exciting milestone not just for Warner Bros. Discovery but for our shareholders, our distributors, our advertisers, our creative partners and, most importantly, consumers globally.”

This new era for the combined firm follows a purge of senior WarnerMedia staff last week, with days of departure headlines beginning on Tuesday with the news that CEO Jason Kilar was to leave, followed soon after by studios chief Ann Sarnoff and HBO Max boss Andy Forssell.

A further six departing execs were named later in the week, including Jim Meza, EVP general counsel; CFO Jennifer Biry; EVP chief human resources officer Jim Cummings; EVP chief revenue officer Tony Goncalves; EVP communications and chief inclusion officer Christy Haubegger; and chief technology officer Richard Tom.

David Zaslav

New leadership

Zaslav, meanwhile, unveiled his senior leadership team on Thursday, which saw JB Perrette – the ex-president & CEO of Discovery Streaming & International – take charge of Warner Bros. Discovery Global Streaming & Interactive, while Scripps Networks interactive alum Kathleen Finch, previously Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer, became chairman & chief content officer for the US Networks Group.

WarnerMedia execs retaining their roles include Channing Dungey, who continues to oversee Warner Bros. Television Group; HBO & HBO Max chief content officer, Casey Bloys; and Toby Emmerich, who remains in charge of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

Other WarnerMedia execs to keep hold of their jobs are Gerhard Zeiler, who will be president of international and oversee distribution strategy internationally, working with Perrette.

Speaking prior to the closure of the deal, Zaslav said that Warner Bros. Discovery does not need to outspend rivals such as Netflix and Disney on content in order to remain competitive.

“Our goal is to compete with the leading streaming services, not to win the spending war,” he told Discovery investors in February, adding: “You’re not going to see us come in and go, all right, we’re spending $5bn more.”

Zaslav, who will move to LA to lead the combined entity, also shared his doubts that more original content would necessarily translate to increased revenue for the firm.

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