Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery are in early talks to merge

A split image of the Paramount Pictures arched gateway, left, and the Warner Bros. water tower
Paramount is in talks to merge with Warner Bros. Discovery.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The chief executives of Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery have met to discuss a potential merger, in what would be a major step in the further consolidation of the media and entertainment industry.

Bob Bakish and David Zaslav, the respective chief executives of Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery, connected in New York City this week for early talks about a potential combination of the two entertainment giants, according to people who were briefed on the matter but were not authorized to comment publicly.

Zaslav, who oversaw the marriage of the former WarnerMedia assets and Discovery last year, also has conversed with Shari Redstone — head of National Amusements, which holds the majority of Paramount voting stock — about the possible deal, according to Axios, which first reported the talks.


The media industry has been rife with speculation about the future of Paramount Global, given Redstone’s recent willingness to consider selling a controlling stake in National Amusements.

The talks have been described as preliminary and may not result in a deal.

Discovery plans to name its proposed new company Warner Bros. Discovery, following its planned merger with WarnerMedia.

June 1, 2021

Representatives for Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s shares declined 6% on Wednesday. Paramount shares declined 2%.

Both companies’ stock prices have been under stress because of their substantial debt loads, combined with Wall Street souring on legacy media’s costly investments in streaming services. Media and entertainment companies have engaged in dramatic cost-cutting efforts to increase cash flow.

A union between Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global would be an opportunity for the two companies to combine units and expand their program offerings while consolidating costs.

Warner Bros. Discovery owns brands including Batman, Superman, HBO, CNN and Cartoon Network, plus HGTV, TLC and other reality TV operations. Paramount Global holds the Paramount film studio, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

Both companies have been investing heavily to boost their respective streaming platforms. A combined Max and Paramount+ would be a robust offering, putting the DC Universe and franchises such as “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek” under one roof.

Paramount has Paramount+, the home of shows including “Yellowstone” spinoffs “1883,” “1923” and other series from Taylor Sheridan. Warner Bros. Discovery relaunched HBO Max as Max earlier this year, adding in populist series such as “90 Day Fiance” alongside HBO’s prestigious shows like “Succession.”


Warner Bros. Discovery already shares the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament with Paramount-owned CBS Sports in a deal that runs through 2032. A merged company would have CBS’ NFL package, which includes Sunday games and two Super Bowls. CBS Sports also has media rights deals with the PGA Tournament, Big Ten college football and the United Soccer League that run through the end of the decade.

Paramount Pictures is leaning into franchises like ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘Paw Patrol,’ which have generated $2.5 billion in retail sales this year and done solid business at the box office.

Dec. 15, 2023

A merged company also could combine the resources of CBS News with Warner Bros. Discovery’s cable news channel CNN. CBS has two of the most-watched news programs in broadcast television with “60 Minutes” and “CBS News Sunday Morning.” While CNN has seen a dramatic decline in its ratings over the past two years, it still delivers a significant profit, with a global newsgathering infrastructure that is more than double the size of CBS News.

From a regulatory standpoint, analysts have said there is a cleaner path for Warner Bros. Discovery to merge with Paramount Global as the former does not have a broadcast network. Comcast, which has been mentioned as a possible contender for Paramount Global, owns NBC and the second most-watched cable news channel in MSNBC.

But at least one analyst has already cast doubt on the likelihood of a deal taking place.

TD Cowen analyst Doug Creutz said in a note to clients that a deal may be unlikely due to financial considerations and regulatory scrutiny. Warner Bros. Discovery already has substantial debt, and a deal would result in the effective combination of two major movie studios and the consolidation of many TV networks under one roof.

“Even if Biden loses in 2024 and a GOP winner (likely to be Trump given current polling) were to bring in new regulators, however, we still think the regulatory hurdles would be high,” Creutz wrote.

Analysts have expected Warner Bros. Discovery to enter talks on potential mergers as the two-year anniversary of Discovery’s 2022 merger with WarnerMedia, previously owned by AT&T, approaches. The company received tax benefits by structuring the deal as Reverse Morris Trust transaction, which prevented it from making another significant deal before April 24.


Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.