Last year it was announced that AT&T was giving up on its investment in WarnerMedia. This move follows their divestment from DirecTV shortly before. The announcement was that the WarnerMedia division of the company would be sold to Discovery, Inc., creating a large television, movie, and streaming giant. This week, the companies announced that the transaction had been completed and the newly merged company, known as Warner Bros. Discovery, would begin trading on the Nasdaq as WBD on April 11, 2022.
The new company
The newly combined company will be known as Warner Bros. Discovery and will be a formidable competitor in a number of media industries. In the television space, the company will own CNN, Discovery Channel, Eurosport, HBO, HGTV, Food Network, Investigation Discovery, TLC, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, and more. In streaming, they will own CNN+, discovery+, and HBO Max. They also own DC, MotorTrend, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and more.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, David Zaslav, said of the merger,
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. With our collective assets and diversified business model, Warner Bros. Discovery offers the most differentiated and complete portfolio of content across film, television and streaming. We are confident that we can bring more choice to consumers around the globe while fostering creativity and creating value for shareholders. I can't wait for both teams to come together to make Warner Bros. Discovery the best place for impactful storytelling.
AT&T has struggled with its media attempts since the beginning. The company launched into DirecTV with reckless abandon, and that recklessness caught up with them. The company's TV service options were confusing, with AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now, and DirecTV Now. Last year, the company shuttered 2 moving everyone to AT&T Now. But, they had used the confusion to create some false numbers, leading to an investor lawsuit. The company had said the subscriber base was good, while customers fled constantly rising prices.
On the Warner side of the fence, AT&T had no better luck. They launched and the shuttered a DC Comics streaming service. They replicated the DirecTV confusion with 3 HBO streaming services, eventually becoming HBO Max exclusively (where they moved the DC streaming content).
It seemed as if every step they made was done without any research or even thought. The only thought involved seemed to be done in a rush, and only to justify a decision they already made. And, in the end, it destroyed the confidence in several brands (Warner Bros, DC Comics, DirecTV).
Not a novel story
AT&T's disastrous relationship with media creation and distribution is not the first of its kind. The company followed Verizon in a similar series of bad decisions, including purchasing AOL and its subsidiaries and Yahoo and its subsidiaries. While it did create an interesting nostalgia unit, it didn't create a successful one. Many of the Yahoo properties were sold off (Tumblr and Flickr), and the AOL brands have been split up, too.
AT&T could have learned a different lesson from Verizon's failures, but instead saw it and thought, "We can do that, too!" Hopefully the earlier missteps from AT&T won't put too much pressure on the new Warner Bros. Discovery.