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WBD no longer pursuing merger with Paramount, report says

Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) is no longer actively pursuing a merger of its business with Paramount Global, financial news channel CNBC reported on Tuesday.

The discussions ended after several months of conversations among executives at both companies that explored a marriage of the two media and entertainment giants, the news channel said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Instead, Skydance Media and its owner, David Ellison, are among the leading candidates to acquire some or all of Paramount, CNBC said. Additionally, Paramount is weighing a possible streaming joint venture with Comcast’s NBC Universal that would see its Paramount Plus with Showtime and Peacock services merge into a single offering. Comcast is not interested in acquiring Paramount as part of the plan, sources said.

Earlier this month,the Wall Street Journal said the Paramount Plus-Peacock merger plans were among several different strategies that executives from both companies brainstormed in recent times, which includes partnering through a formal joint venture to unify the content libraries of each service.

The structure appears to be similar to one Paramount and Comcast’s NBC Universal partnered on to bring the content libraries of Paramount Plus with Showtime and Peacock to overseas audiences, where both brands lack much of a presence. In parts of Europe, the companies operate a streaming joint venture called Sky Showtime, which operates using technology from Peacock and offers movies and TV shows from both brands.

The Journal said a streaming partnership or joint venture has the potential to bring significant cost savings across the board, from programming to marketing, and create a more-unified streaming experience on multiple fronts, to include the delivery of live sports from the CBS and NBC brands.

The discussions come at a time when both companies are laser focused on scaling their direct-to-consumer streaming operations in pursuit of viewers who have left linear television platforms like cable and satellite. In January, Comcast said Peacock counted 31 million subscribers at the end of 2023. Paramount is expected to provide updated figures for Paramount Plus with Showtime subscribers later this month; in November, the company reported 63 million global subscribers.

Like other media companies, Paramount has faced immense pressure from investors to curb operational expenses with an eye toward profitability, particularly in its streaming division. The company has explored a range of options, from a partial sale of some assets like BET Media and Noggin to an outright sale of Paramount and its parent company, National Amusements.

A streaming joint venture would likely face less regulatory scrutiny, since both sides would remain separate companies with operations that fell outside the scope of a streaming product. The Journal’s reporting did not suggest that a streaming partnership or joint venture would include other assets that overlap, like Paramount and Comcast’s broadcast networks and cable channels, or unique assets like Paramount’s theme parks and Comcast’s broadband Internet service.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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