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Discovery and AT&T: How a Huge Media Deal Was Done

Deals are rarely smooth, and an anomaly with Discovery’s share price dovetailed with the negotiations. Discovery’s stock began to inexplicably rocket in February and March to $75 from $45 because of a convoluted trading scandal involving Archegos, a little-known private investment firm that bet big on Discovery and other companies via derivatives using billions in borrowed money.With banks forced to buy shares to hedge their spiraling exposure to Archegos, Discovery’s market value jumped nearly 60 percent, for no obvious reason to outsiders. But by May, the stock had returned to where it was during Mr. Zaslav’s initial approach, …

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How a Megadeal Reunited CNN’s Jeff Zucker With a Powerful Old Friend

All agreed that Mr. Zaslav’s takeover raised the odds that Mr. Zucker would stay put, perhaps in an expanded role that encompasses more of Discovery and Warner’s combined news and sports assets. Discovery, for instance, owns Eurosport, a European network with broadcast rights to the Olympics and major tournaments in tennis and golf.“They were a formidable team when they were together at NBC,” said Jeff Gaspin, a former chairman of entertainment at NBCUniversal who has worked closely with both men. “They’ll make a formidable team at Warner if Jeff chooses to stay.”Today in BusinessUpdated May 18, 2021, 9:07 …

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After Media Detour, AT&T Confronts Old Problems

“It would have been an amazing merger,” said David Barden, a senior research analyst at Bank of America. “It would have kind of perpetuated the AT&T juggernaut of growth through acquisition — not through organic — but it failed.”Mr. Stephenson then looked to the attractive profit margins found in media and entertainment. In 2014, he announced a deal for DirecTV, a transaction that he promised would “redefine the industry.”But AT&T bought into the pay-TV industry at its peak. Not long after it acquired the satellite service, consumers left in droves.“One thing they didn’t — they could not have …

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An Old-School Media Titan Pushes Aside an Upstart

Mr. Kilar fashioned himself as a disrupter inclined to break with the status quo in the pursuit of innovation. He became the chief executive of WarnerMedia in April 2020. He previously had started a video streaming company called Vessel and had managed Hulu, where he gained a reputation for thwarting the desires of the entrenched media executives overseeing the company.HBO Max made a lackluster debut just two months after his arrival at WarnerMedia. By August, Mr. Kilar dismissed Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly, two longtime television executives who were in charge of the streaming service’s programming. Mr. Kilar also …

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AT&T-Discovery Deal Would Create a Media Juggernaut

“AT&T didn’t know what they were buying,” said Brian Wieser, a longtime Wall Street analyst. “The strategy underpinning” the acquisition “was probably flawed.”Mr. Wieser said AT&T deserved credit for slimming down WarnerMedia’s operations and putting money into HBO Max. Shortly after AT&T closed on the deal in 2018, the company quickly worked to consolidate the media giant’s various divisions, ultimately laying off about 2,000 employees. “They were genuinely reorganizing the business to give it the clarity to be able to compete with Netflix,” he said.At the same time, AT&T is no longer best …

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Jeff Zucker Announces Plans to Step Down

Jeffrey A. Zucker, the president of CNN who reshaped the cable network and America’s news media over the last decade, said during a morning call with CNN staff members on Thursday that he planned to step down at the end of the year, when his contract is up.“I cannot imagine not being here right now,” Mr. Zucker, 55, said, according to a CNN staff member who was on the call. “I’m going to stay and finish my current contract, which, as I said, will keep me here until the end of this year. At that point, I do …

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CNN and MSNBC Fret Over Post-Trump Future

CNN and MSNBC thrived during the Trump years, reaching new heights in ratings and revenue while devoting countless prime-time hours to criticizing a White House antagonist their viewers just could not quit.Now faced with a Trump-less future, top executives at the rival cable news networks have summoned star anchors and producers to private meetings in recent weeks, seeking answers to a pressing question: What’s next?People at both networks know that viewers who abhorred President Trump may no longer need their nightly therapy sessions with Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. seems unlikely …

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HBO Max Plan Makes WarnerMedia Chief A Hollywood Villain

LOS ANGELES — When Jason Kilar began his tenure as the chief executive of Hulu in July 2007, some competitors considered the streaming service so likely to fail that they nicknamed it Clown Co. Yet Mr. Kilar, armed with both the conviction that there was a better way to watch television and the backing of two powerful corporate parents — NBCUniversal and News Corp — sequestered himself and his team in an empty Santa Monica office and got to work. He covered all the windows with newspapers, emphasizing the point that naysayers were to be ignored.“Sometimes in life, blocking out that outside noise …

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Who’s Behind the Fight Between Warner Bros. and Hollywood? It’s AT&T

Even a small sample of the Warner Bros. 2021 film slate suggests the studio’s big-screen ambitions: a desert-planet messiah who can kill with a word (“Dune”); a colossal clash between mutant monsters (“Godzilla vs. Kong”); a local hero who whips up frenzied dance routines across uptown rooftops (“In the Heights”).They’re the kind of movies that families, couples and teenagers once watched on three-story screens from the comfort of stadium-style seats, with the soundtrack’s bass notes rumbling at their feet. But last week Warner Bros. broke with tradition by announcing that it would release its entire lineup of 2021 …

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Warner Bros. Trades Box Office for HBO Max, but Stars Still Want Their Money

The 97-year-old studio, the ancestral home of Humphrey Bogart (“Casablanca”) and Bette Davis (“Now, Voyager”), suddenly finds itself at the uncomfortable center of a Hollywood that is changing at light speed. Even before the pandemic, streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video were upending how movies get seen and their creators are compensated. Now, with theaters struggling because of the coronavirus and the public largely stuck at home, even traditional film companies are being forced to evolve.It’s not that all actors and directors are against streaming. Plenty of big names are making movies for Netflix. …

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