When Worlds Collide: Discovery's Takeover Of WarnerMedia

With the birth of a new content behemoth called Warner Bros. Discovery just days (if not hours) away, Discovery seems clearly to be in the driver’s seat as this deal comes to a close.

Headlines in the business and trade press over the last few days indicate that something of a purge is taking place in advance of the closing as Discovery Inc. President and CEO David Zaslav and his team take up the process of structuring chains of command more in line with Discovery’s corporate culture than WarnerMedia’s.

With Discovery calling all the shots, can the union of these two companies really be described as a merger? The pre-structuring now underway would indicate that the merger is really a takeover.

To sum up what’s going on, top management at WarnerMedia has seen a raft of exits this week (presumably with lucrative exit packages), with top executives at Discovery moving into position to take up the responsibilities that the WarnerMedia people once had.



In the first stage of the exits reported here by MediaPost, the WarnerMedia execs who left are: Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia CEO; Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group; and Andy Forssell, executive vice president and general manager of HBO Max.

According to trade press reports, those who left in a subsequent second round of exits were: CFO Jennifer Biry; Christy Haubegger, corporate communications chief; Jim Cummings, executive vice president and chief human resources officer; Tony Goncalves, executive vice president and chief revenue officer; Jim Meza, executive vice president and general counsel; and Richard Tom, chief technology officer.

That’s a lot of exits, but it is easy to see that most, if not all, encompass the same responsibilities already held by top managers at Discovery in these departments. So, you might say the Discovery people won and kept their jobs.

The merger (or whatever you want to call it) of Discovery Inc. and WarnerMedia would seem at first to be on par with merging oil and water, from a content standpoint.

Discovery is a non-scripted-first company (or at least it was), and Warner is the direct opposite, with hundreds of scripted properties known the world over.

By joining forces, the content giant this combination creates will certainly be diverse -- as wide-ranging as Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food” with hungry host Roger Mooking (above photo left) and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Larry David on HBO Max (above right).

It was just four years ago at its upfront in April 2018 that Discovery positioned itself squarely as a non-scripted-only TV content company following its takeover of the Scripps networks to form a non-scripted colossus.

At the time, the then-new Discovery-Scripps combination eschewed the glitz associated with scripted TV shows and movies.

“That's not what we do,” said Zaslav back then. “We don’t do red carpet. We don’t do Hollywood stars. We pretty much don’t have actors. We have authentic talent. We focus on strong brands, passionate audiences and real-life entertainment.”

However, times change quickly in the TV business these days, and Discovery is about to own Warner and everything that company has represented for 99 years. Red carpets and movie stars await.

Left photo courtesy of Discovery Networks/Cooking Channel. Right photo courtesy of WarnerMedia.

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