Warner Bros Discovery Merger Under Fire From Congress for "Anticompetitive Practices"

A letter from four democractic lawmakers in the United States congress is urging the Justice Department to investigate Warner Bros. Discovery's conduct after the merger of the two companies. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Rep. David Cicilline and Rep. Pramila Jayapal all penend the letter, specifically noting the moves made by Warner Bros. Discovery after the completion of the merger and say that it has been "harming workers and creatives in the media and entertainment industry." Among the things they specifically cite from Warner Bros. Discovery in the past year is the outright cancellation of the Batgirl movie.

The letter, addressed to Attorney General Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kanter, went on to note other decisions made by WBD that have allegedly harmed workers and consumers alike. In addition to highlighting the Batgirl movie's cancellation, they note WBD "took 68 titles off HBO Max" meaning that "some content removed from HBO Max is not available for streaming, renting, or buying on other platforms-meaning consumers no longer have access to content they expected when paying for HBO Max." Additional shows are also written about that were won in a bidding war by WBD and later cancelled outright. 

They write, "The damage to content creators whose projects are cancelled in deep development and post-production cannot be overstated.... Such cancellations stain these projects, making them less appealing and marketable to other buyers- consumers will likely never be able to watch shows purchased then cancelled by WBD. WBD's conduct amounts to a de facto 'catch and kill' practice, vastly limiting consumer choice."

"Protecting competition for workers and consumers is the essence of antitrust law," the letter reads. "As Assistant Attorney General Kanter recently noted, 'antitrust laws apply to transactions that harm content creators and workers.' We are concerned that the WarnerMedia/Discovery merger has proven to be such a transaction. It has enabled the combined WBD to take aggressive measures, harming workers and creatives in the media and entertainment industry while eliminating the disciplining forces of competition that provide workers with the freedom to change jobs or negotiate for better pay and working conditions."

The letter concludes by asking the Department of Justice to "take another look" at the merger in light of Warner Bros. Discovery's "post-transaction conduct." They further note that hopefully the result of Warner Bros. Discovery's conduct after merging might "inform updates to the merger guidelines to ensure that the guidelines reflect the needs of workers, consumers, and content creators in the media and entertainment industry."