July 12, 2024

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Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount CEOs hold exploratory merger talks

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Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount Global are in early talks to merge, in a media deal that would combine the owner of HBO and CNN with the studio behind the Mission Impossible films and CBS News. 

Warner chief executive David Zaslav and Paramount chief Bob Bakish discussed a possible deal over lunch at Paramount’s offices in New York this week, according to three people familiar with the matter. The talks were at an early stage and a deal might not materialise, these people cautioned.

The conversation was more of an expression of interest by Zaslav than an offer, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting between the two executives. Billionaire Shari Redstone, who controls Paramount, has also held preliminary talks with Skydance, the production company behind Top Gun: Maverick, run by David Ellison.

The discussions with Warner Bros, first reported by Axios, come as US media groups are struggling to improve their profitability after waging a costly “streaming war” against Netflix. Big entertainment groups including Warner, Paramount and Disney have been on a cost-cutting mission as they try to shrink losses running into the billions of dollars from their video streaming services.

Analysts have predicted a shakeout among smaller media companies that compete against much larger tech groups — including Netflix, Apple and Amazon — for a finite number of subscribers.

Warner owns the Max streaming service, which could be combined with Paramount Plus if a deal were to materialise. Max has about 95mn subscribers globally, while Paramount+ reported a total of 63mn subscribers at the end of the third quarter. Industry leader Netflix had 247mn subscribers as of October.

Warner and Paramount had stock market capitalisations of $28bn and $10bn respectively, as of Wednesday.

Both companies have significant debt loads, however. Warner’s net debt…



2023-12-20 19:15:45

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