The Warner Bros. Discovery Merger Is Official — Here's What This Means To Movie And TV Fans

Another gigantic media merger was finalized last week as the companies formerly known as WarnerMedia and Discovery have formed to make up Warner Bros. Discovery. This gigantic new media conglomerate is set to shake up an industry that has been lousy with shake-ups over the past few years, particularly as it relates to streaming. In this case, the combined powers of HBO Max and discovery+ will now be located under one roof, all for the low price of $43 billion. Any joking aside about the price tag, that number is gigantic and it puts it in a similar league as Disney buying Fox, though not quite as eye-catching or monumental, at least not on the surface. But make no mistake, this is a huge deal even if it doesn't have the headline-making ability of the Disney/Fox deal in the eyes of the general public. This is going to impact the way many of us enjoy movies and TV, as well as what types of content gets made, and where it will be available.

With the deal officially closing, we're going to go over what this means for movie and TV fans, what to expect, and why it might be a lowkey bad omen for the streaming wars.

Mountains of content

First and foremost, the combined might of these two very different companies will be a force to be reckoned with. The fact of the matter is, to compete against other giants like Disney and Netflix, it is going to require a lot of content that can cast a wide net. Well, at the very least, Warner Bros. Discovery is going to have a ridiculous amount of content and distribution channels at its disposal, ranging from one of the biggest movies studios on the planet to a huge swath of popular cable channels.

The new media conglomerate now houses Discovery Channel, discovery+, Warner Bros. Entertainment, CNN, CNN+, DC, Eurosport, HBO Max, 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, among others, all under one room. This does not even begin to list out the individual franchises under the new company, which include "Harry Potter," all of the DC universe, the "Looney Tunes," "Scooby-Doo," "Mortal Kombat," "Mad Max," and many more. Not to mention what Discovery is bringing to the table with shows like "90 Day Fiance," "Man vs. Wild," "Naked and Afraid," "Guys Grocery Games," and near-countless other reality and unscripted shows.

It's easy to see why the price tag was so large, and why the powers that be at both companies thought this might be the way to carve out a future in the business, even if it did mean going into massive debt to do so. While it may not seem like something that will affect the average moviegoer or TV lover, it is also very important to note that the corporate structure is going to look very different at Warner Bros. Discovery, with former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar leaving the company altogether, among others. That means new decision-makers with new ways of thinking deciding what to do with all of this content. Variety has a full breakdown of the new corporate structure, which will be led by David Zaslav as CEO.

A double-edged media giant

Perhaps the most interesting and important element of this merger is the fact that this is a marriage of two wildly different companies. Warner Bros. is a legacy studio that has one of the most enduring and successful movie studios in the business, along with a very robust TV business that is led by scripted content which is often met with critical acclaim. Think HBO and what they've done for TV over the past several decades. That's all under the Warner Bros. umbrella. Then there's Discovery, which is unquestionably an unscripted TV giant, with everything from reality TV to survival shows, and absolutely everything in between.

These two businesses can attract very different crowds, and that is exactly the point. To succeed against Netflix, which has perhaps the deepest pockets in all of media, as well as Disney, the franchise king of the world, it's going to take a lot. Uniting these two different subscriber-catching nets into one, much larger net is a unique play. It is important to point out that the plan is to unite HBO Max and discovery+ in the future in some way, meaning that all of this content will be contained within one service. What that means for the price remains to be seen but one has to assume a price increase is not off the table.

The other thing this opens the door for is a cross-pollination of sorts. The joke I continue to make is that we should absolutely be ready for a Batman cooking show because it's coming. Maybe not that exact thing (though it would not be surprising) but these two different sides of the coin can be exploited to create new, eye-catching content that will draw people in. Be prepared for that.

AT&T wanted out of the media business

The most damning and not-discussed-enough element of this whole thing is that AT&T paid a king's ransom for Time Warner towards the end of 2015 to the tune of $85.4 billion. The idea was to merge a gigantic telecon with a huge media company and create something else entirely. This deal faced many antitrust hurdles but ultimately was approved in June of 2018, which resulted in a massive restructuring of what used to be Time Warner into a new corporation known as WarnerMedia. Layoffs happened. The business was completely upended. HBO Max was made a gigantic priority. This was a big, expensive ordeal that was poised to be the future of what used to just be AT&T.

Yet, just three years after the merger, it was announced that AT&T was spinning off WarnerMedia in a sale to Discovery, getting out of the media business entirely. This was a costly experiment and one that kind of paved the way for the Disney/Fox merger, and several other big mergers that have followed. In the end, AT&T said to hell with media and went back to its roots. Does that not seem like a damning commentary on the chaotic nature of the media business as it currently exists? To undo all of that work of a gigantic $85 billion merger simply to get out of not just the streaming business, but the media business altogether? This is worth examining and thinking about as the streaming wars continue to unfold and as the box office attempts to find its new normal in the pandemic era.

While I am merely an onlooker, to me, this is perhaps something we will look back on many years from now as a major shift in the streaming wars. When AT&T looked at all of this competition, all of this money, this whole quest for subscribers and gigantic expense associated with it and said to hell with it. If a big streaming service ever fails or if this house of cards ever looks like it might tumble, we may look back on this and look at it as though AT&T saw the writing on the wall. Not to be Mr. Doom and Gloom here but it is pretty remarkable when looking at the timeline and cost of it all.