Services & Software

HBO owner WarnerMedia sees merger with Discovery closing before July

WarnerMedia's current owner, AT&T, expects the megadeal to close slightly ahead of schedule, possibly as soon as April.

AT&T is merging its WarnerMedia assets with Discovery's.
Sarah Tew/CNET

AT&T's WarnerMedia division -- home to streaming service HBO Max, the Warner Bros. movie studio and TV channels like HBO, CNN, TBS and more -- expects to close its deal to merge with Discovery in the second quarter, slightly earlier than planned, AT&T CEO John Stankey said Wednesday. Discovery is known for reality shows and other unscripted programming on its cable networks and its own streaming service, Discovery Plus

That means the $43 billion deal, which will create a new company to be named Warner Bros. Discovery, may close as soon as April and no later than the end of June, according to AT&T executives Wednesday during a conference to discuss the carrier's fourth-quarter earnings. 

When the companies announced the deal in May, they predicted it would close in mid-2022. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval and other conditions. 

The plan to combine WarnerMedia with Discovery is one in a parade of recent media deal-making, all coming as streaming video has never been more popular and the competition never more fierce. In the last two years, media giants and tech heavyweights have launched their own rivals to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, with services like Apple TV PlusDisney PlusHBO Max and Peacock rolling out. These so-called streaming wars affect how many services you must use -- and often pay for -- to watch your favorite shows and movies online. 

That intensifying competition in streaming has triggered a wave of consolidation among media companies. Disney bought Fox, Viacom and CBS merged, and AT&T bought Time Warner, then struck this deal to spin it all off again. Amazon wants to buy MGM, one of the few smaller media properties left, as the competitive advantage in Hollywood solidifies around being a giant -- or part of a giant -- to survive.

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