Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and Paramount might be about to significantly alter the entertainment landscape with another new super-streaming service.
According to a stunning report from Axios, the studios have reportedly held talks about a possible 'mega merger', which would see the duo combine their resources to tackle juggernaut rivals Disney and Netflix on the big and small screens.
Where the latter is concerned, multiple sources told Axios that, if the companies joined forces, part of their strategy would see Max – WBD's super-streamer replacement for HBO Max, which only launched in May – and Paramount Plus merge to combat the runaway success of Netflix and Disney Plus. Currently, Max is only available in the US, so it's unclear how a potential WBD-Paramount merger would affect UK and Australian viewers, who subscribe to Sky and Foxtel respectively to watch WBD-developed shows.
Scoop: Warner Bros. Discovery (@wbd) in talks to merge with @Paramount— David Zaslav met w Bob Bakish on Tuesday at Paramount HQ to discuss— Zaslav also has spoken to Shari Redstone about a deal— WBD has hired bankers Story on @axios:https://t.co/ExGZisf3fuDecember 20, 2023
Questions remain over which entertainment behemoth might acquire the other as part of a potential merger. Axios claims WBD currently has a higher market value ($29 billion) than Paramount Global ($10 billion), so it's likely that WBD would buy the company formerly known as ViacomCBS, as it would have more money to do so.
In any case, talks are said to be in their very early stages. Axios suggests a first meeting between WBD CEO David Zaslav and his Paramount counterpart Bob Bakish only took place yesterday (December 20), so it'll be some time before we learn more details about any plausible, industry-shaking deal.
We've reached out to WBD and Paramount for comment, and we'll update this article if we hear back.
A sign of the streaming times
This isn't the first instance where Paramount has seemingly sought to co-operate with another company's entertainment division. On December 1, we reported that Paramount Plus and Apple TV Plus executives talked about creating a cheap streaming bundle to take on Netflix. That deal would've seen Apple TV Plus and Paramount's struggling streamer packaged together to combat Netflix's streaming dominance. However, there were no discussions about Apple and Paramount Global officially merging as part of that arrangement.
Axios' report suggests that Paramount Global is "under enormous pressure" to partner with another studio due to its unsustainable debts. If true, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see why the apparently ailing company has sought talks with other entertainment behemoths to bolster its cash reserves and put Paramount Plus' library of content in front of more viewers.
It's fascinating to see WBD positioned as a potential Paramount Global buyer, too. The conglomerate hasn't been immune from financial issues of its own, with Zaslav cancelling ready-to-release movies, such as Batgirl and Coyote Vs Acme, to chalk them up as tax write-offs. WBD has also licensed multiple HBO TV shows to Netflix recently in a bit to generate funds to reduce its own mountain of debt. If WBD is struggling as much as Paramount, does it have the cash reserves to even make a play for one of its rivals?
I think this gif speaks for all of us with this potential merger: https://t.co/2wKLbyQEr0 pic.twitter.com/jJdtyul9IADecember 20, 2023
Then there's the question over how a Max-Paramount Plus mega-streamer would work. As I mentioned, Max only arrived on the scene in May 2023, with the platform born out of HBO Max and Discovery Plus joining forces after WarnerMedia and Discovery's own merger in April 2022. Would Paramount Plus actually fuse with Max, thereby allowing the best Paramount Plus shows and best Paramount Plus movies to be free to Max subscribers? Or would it be bundled with Max in a similar manner to the Disney Plus bundle that allows US customers to subscribe to Disney Plus and Hulu at a cheaper price point?
Add in the even messier prospect of how a WBD-Paramount merger would impact WBD's licensing deals with international companies including Sky and Foxtel, plus obvious concerns over WBD's monopoly of the streaming industry, and a Max-Paramount Plus mega streamer has a lot of issues to overcome. In short: I don't want it, and neither should you.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
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