May 17, 2021
On the heels of AT&T and Discovery’s massive merger deal, Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will head the new combined company, said the agreement, which combines the assets of Warner Bros., Turner and HBO with HGTV, Food Network and Animal Planet, among others, translates into the “best” media company in the world.
Zaslav said he and AT&T CEO John Stankey had been discussing a “singular vision” for some time over rounds of golf regarding media distribution in a burgeoning direct-to-consumer ecosystem.
“Simply put, these assets are better together,” Zaslav said on a conference call with reporters. “Together, we are the best global media company in the world … and believe the deal alters the growth profile of [AT&T and Discovery] in a material way. In an explosive way.”
Zaslav said the merger would not only enhance the companies’ programming for its legacy pay-TV and broadcast channels, it would also ensure its place as a fully scaled differentiated global streaming platform.
“The combination [of HBO Max and Discovery+] will fully establish us as one of the leading direct-to-consumer streaming players worldwide,” Zaslav said.
Indeed, Discovery+ and HBO Max and HBO had a combined subscriber base of more than 57 million at the end of the most-recent fiscal period. That tally trails significantly when compared with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ with 207 million, 175 million and 103 million subscribers, respectively.
“The capabilities and overall optionality of each facet required to compete at the highest level of the direct-to-consumer playing field, is significantly higher when we’re together,” Zaslav said. “It’s a complicated and strategic roadmap that every single one of our peers is on.”
Complicated is an understatement. How HBO Max and Discovery+ will position themselves together remains uncertain. Zaslav contends the two platforms would be offered to consumers in a bundle similar to what Disney does with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.
“In terms of bundling … we’re going to do it differently,” he said.
Stankey said the deal puts WarnerMedia in a position to self-fund its growth going forward, while giving AT&T the ability to invest and address the growing demand for connectivity through 5G and fiber.
“At the highest level, this transaction is an opportunity to unlock value for shareholders on both sides of this deal,” Stankey said.