This last year we saw AT&T change the way WarnerMedia operated. The simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release slate made filmmakers frustrated and changed the way many people viewed the company. It alienated filmmakers in general, even as audiences did flock to HBO Max to subscribe for new releases.
Now in the latest rumbling, we are learning that AT&T might be interested in shedding WarnerMedia assets, selling them off to the highest bidder. This sort of tumultuous action will cost thousands of jobs and put the studio in flux.
What's for sale? WarnerMedia assets include HBO, Warner Bros. Studios, and Turner networks like TNT and TBS. These are valuable properties that could be given to the highest bidder. Discovery has stepped forward to take on some of these entities—but don't rule out NBCUniversal to take a swing in acquiring them as well.
This is all the Wild West in terms of precedent. We haven't ever seen companies with theatrical and television interests merge like this.
How and why is this happening?
It seems as if AT&T dipped its toes into the entertainment business and hated the water. They worked to draw people to streamers and upset the industry in general. There was a lot of backlash, and they realized it would be incredibly expensive to make the kinds of films and TV shows that would allow them to compete with Apple, Netflix, and Amazon.
Places like The Hollywood Reporter are saying that a merger between Warner and Discovery may be imminent.
When mergers like this happen, they can take a long time, and shed a lot of smaller companies in the process. Could someone come in and just buy up HBO Max or even take TNT/TBS to put them under another banner?
Nothing is stopping a sell-off except that all the pieces are valuable, and so are their catalogs of content.
What does this mean?
We're about to see another huge corporation created that's in control of a lot of content (and the jobs of everyone who works on that content). As the LA Times said, the deal could be worth $43 billion and would have AT&T holding 71% of the new company, and Discovery holding 29%.
But what will each entity want out of the deal? We don't have anything tangible there. Paste Magazine had several predictions for what could happen, but this is all speculative.
The most obvious side effect is that it may start a run on smaller streaming services being bought and sold. A sort of arms race in the streaming wars, to see which platform can scoop the best content.
This kind of move could see smaller streamers sucked up into larger corporations who sell access to them or their libraries through bigger names. If more telecom companies get into the mix, expect commercials to change, with these places relying heavily on product placement. It sort of feels like the early days of television with products sponsoring shows.
In the end, that means we didn't actually conquer "cutting the cord." Deals like this will package channels you want at one fee. Isn't that the same as cable? How is this any better? Especially when one large corporation controls all of it? Where is the market or the incentive to keep prices low?
Let us know what you think in the comments.