Discovery merger with WarnerMedia could close Friday

(Image courtesy Discovery Communications, Graphic by The Desk)

Discovery’s planned takeover of AT&T’s entertainment subsidiary WarnerMedia is expected to happen this month, but a new report says it could take place as soon as Friday.

On Tuesday, the trade publication Variety reported the merger could take place sooner than expected, based in large part on information purportedly provided by company insiders who are familiar with the plans of both companies.

The news came hours after WarnerMedia’s Chief Executive Officer Jason Kilar said he intends to step down from his position on Friday. The timing of his resignation could coincide with the completion of the merger, which was announced early last year.

AT&T plans to spin off WarnerMedia into a separate company, one that will merge with Discovery, Inc. to form Warner Bros. Discovery. The new company will marry traditional cable channels like CNN, the Cartoon Network, the Discovery Channe, Animal Planet, HGTV and TLC with the content libraries of HBO Max, Discovery Plus and CNN Plus.

The new entertainment company will be majority owned by AT&T’s shareholders, with Discovery’s current chief executive David Zaslav and chief financial executive Gunnar Widenfels remaining in place.

Zaslav will not name a successor for Kilar, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company did appoint Christopher Licht to overseen WarnerMedia’s news channel CNN earlier this year after the cable network’s long-time president Jeffrey Zucker resigned.

If WarnerMedia and Discovery merge on Friday, it will likely come at the end of the business day, which means the newly-formed company would begin operating on Monday, Variety said. A town hall meeting with employees of both companies is scheduled for the middle of next week, the trade publication reported.

Neither company offered a comment on the report. No formal merger date has been put forward since the deal was announced last May.

Few details have been made available as to how the combined company will operate, though executives have affirmed plans to merge WarnerMedia’s flagship streaming service HBO Max with that of Discovery Plus down the road.

On Tuesday, Kilar told CNBC that there were plans to eventually bundle HBO Max with WarnerMedia’s other premium streaming service CNN Plus, which debuted on Apple TV Plus and Amaazon Fire TV last week.

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