Discovery’s merger with WarnerMedia could take effect as early as Friday

The formation of Warner Bros. Discovery is almost complete.

As Variety’s Jennifer Maas first reported on Tuesday, Discovery’s impending merger with WarnerMedia could “close,” in Wall Street parlance, as soon as business ends Friday. (WarnerMedia is the current parent of CNN, and CNN will be part of this new media juggernaut.) Someone familiar with the matter confirmed to Brian Stelter and me that the Friday timing is possible.

Businesses have been planning for this moment for much of the year. For the past few weeks, Monday the 11th has been tentatively marked as the closing date. Now it could be a few days earlier.

Discovery and AT&T do not comment publicly. But there are plenty of signs that the deal is quickly coming to an end, with David Zaslav at the helm of the company. On Tuesday, AT&T officially kicked off its process to spin off from WarnerMedia, executing a stock dividend that will give shareholders shares in the new company. AT&T shareholders will control 71% of Warner Bros. Discovery. “This is going to be the most exciting story in the industry for the next few years,” top analyst Jessica Reif told Yahoo Finance.
The spinoff was joined by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, officially announcing he would be leaving the company on Friday. “With the current transaction with Discovery nearing completion, the time has come to share with each of you that I will be leaving this incredible company,” Kilar told employees in a memo Tuesday.

In his memo, Kilar called WarnerMedia’s leadership “the honor of my life.” Some of his top lieutenants also leave, making way for Discovery.

Kilar’s lasting imprint on Warner

During his tenure as CEO, Kilar brought a new streaming-age mindset to a set of businesses — including HBO and CNN — that were historically siloed and focused on cable and satellite relationships. We talked about it last week when he was hanging out with the CNN+ launch tech team. The three keys to this new world, he said, are customer acquisition, engagement and retention – hooking subscribers, keeping them coming back for fresh, compelling content and giving them reasons not to. not cancel. I know this sounds like common sense to some, but it requires a major mindset shift for traditional media companies.

Speaking on CNBC, Kilar said his advice to Warner Bros. executives. Discovery would be to “start and end with storytelling and stick to that knitting, and also recognize what works really well, which is clearly the streaming side of the business and the gaming side of the business .” Kilar said he had no “big proclamations” to share about his own future, but said, “I’m not going to the beach to reflect or retire…”

Sarnoff and Forssell should also come out

“The end credits are rolling for WarnerMedia’s senior management,” Joe Flint of the WSJ wrote on Tuesday.
Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, who has run the studio since 2019, is expected to depart at the same time as Kilar, NYT’s Brooks Barnes reported, citing three sources and saying an official announcement is imminent. Like Kilar, he writes, Sarnoff “has been left without a seat in the game of musical chairs that accompanies the merger of competing companies.” While the new structure “is still unknown”, Zaslav is expected to take over “at least part” of his portfolio.
HBO Max chief Andy Forssell is also parting ways with the company, Variety’s Matt Donnelly and Jennifer Maas have been picked up. As Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro and Dade Hayes reported, Discovery’s head of streaming, JB Perrette, was “largely expected to take over the newly merged company’s combined direct-to-consumer streaming operation even before the release of Forssell becomes official”. That said, HBO chief content officer Casey Bloys is expected to stay, D’Alessandro and Hayes reported…

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