In a land before Disney absorbed 20th Century Fox, the Mouse nearly made another major acquisition. Nearly five years ago, Bob Iger reportedly placed a call to then-Time Warner head Jeff Bewkes asking if the company would be interested in a merger. If the deal would have gone through, Disney would have purchased Warner Brothers and its subsidiaries, from its movie studios to HBO and beyond. That means that both the Marvel and DC Comics universes would have been owned by the House of Mouse. Hard to believe, right?
As the New York Times reports, Iger's call came too late, as Time Warner was already in the process of merger with AT&T. Iger then got off the phone, and set his sights on acquiring a similar business. The story says the executive then called Rupert Murdoch and, well...as they say, the rest is history.
Despite an antitrust filed against Time Warner and AT&T from the United State Justice Department at the time of the proposed merger, the business deal closed and the two companies became one. Now, some five years later, AT&T is working on spinning out its WarnerMedia business, making it an independent company separate from the telecom giant. Once that takes place, WarnerMedia will then merge with Discovery, creating a new content powerhouse in an increasingly digital world.
"This agreement unites two entertainment leaders with complementary content strengths and positions the new company to be one of the leading global direct-to-consumer streaming platforms," John Stankey said in a statement announcing the merger.
Stankey's statement added, "It will support the fantastic growth and international launch of HBO Max with Discovery's global footprint and create efficiencies which can be re-invested in producing more great content to give consumers what they want. For AT&T shareholders, this is an opportunity to unlock value and be one of the best capitalized broadband companies, focused on investing in 5G and fiber to meet substantial, long-term demand for connectivity. AT&T shareholders will retain their stake in our leading communications company that comes with an attractive dividend. Plus, they will get a stake in the new company, a global media leader that can build one of the top streaming platforms in the world."
Current Discovery CEO David Zaslav will be the one to oversee the new company should it pass regulatory approval.
Cover photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images