AT&T's 'Malpractice' At WarnerMedia May Be Warning For Future Mergers

In 2016, once TimeWarner was sold to AT&T for $85 billion, Jeff Bewkes -- then CEO of Time Warner -- believed the big communications company would leave all its senior TV executives alone to run the company.

We know how that turned out.

Many HBO and Turner network executives were shown the door. Even newly hired executives from competing TV network groups were quickly hired and almost as quickly departed. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost at AT&T overall after the TimeWarner merger.

"We didn't think they would go to such a level of malpractice as to not listen to anybody… even though they themselves had no experience in those areas,’’ said Bewkes, as quoted in the new book by James Andrew Miller, Tinderbox: HBO's Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, the history of the deal and the integration of TimeWarner into AT&T.



Many TV insiders at the time were stumped. Rumors abounded as the corporate culture changed. Gone was some of the first-class air travel for many HBO/WarnerMedia executives, for example, according to sources.

According to Miller's book, the subsequent proposed sale of the renamed WarnerMedia business to Discovery Inc. yields much Monday-morning quarterbacking.

The deal for AT&T -- looking to move horizontally into content to help boost consumer sales of mobile and broadband pipes -- was always fraught with major potholes.

The book quotes current AT&T CEO John Stankey defending many production and staffing moves, saying that when you buy something at premium, you need to immediately find ways to pay down that high price.

Critics joined Bewkes in saying AT&T had little experience in the production/marketing and distribution of TV and movie content -- that synergy with a technology-focused communications company was going to be difficult at best.

Business lessons -- especially when it comes to media -- always need to be re-learned.

Can anyone mouth these company letters -- A-O-L -- and not think about its spectacularly failed acquisition in buying TimeWarner in 2000 for a mere $182 billion? Yes, that was more than double the price AT&T bought TimeWarner for, five years ago.

A budding internet broadband-focused company was also looking to support its services with premium TV and movie content. How did that turn out?

Stankey says the spinoff to Discovery was made because investors weren’t giving AT&T much credit for its addition and revamping of WarnerMedia and its streamer HBO Max.

The long-suffering TimeWarner/WarnerMedia lesson plan now moves to Discovery. Is anyone doing due diligence now?

1 comment about "AT&T's 'Malpractice' At WarnerMedia May Be Warning For Future Mergers".
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  1. Douglas Montgomery from Global Connects, November 18, 2021 at 2:24 p.m.

    "due diligence", had there been more "discovery" in 2015 perhaps there would be no "Discovery' in 2021

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