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Merger Monday Joins WarnerMedia with Discovery

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Monday, May 17, 2021

A landmark entertainment media deal was announced ahead of the opening bell today, with AT&T’s (T - Free Report) WarnerMedia company being turned over to Discovery (DISCA - Free Report) . This looks to create a new challenger in the Big Media space, which includes Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) , Disney+ (DIS - Free Report) and Comcast’s (CMCSA - Free Report) NBCUniversal. The $43 billion deal, which brings channels like CNN, HBO, TBS and more under the wing of Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will be at the helm of the new entity.

The WarnerMedia ownership by AT&T, many analysts say, wasn’t ever a very good fit. Shareholders of AT&T will retain a 71% ownership of the new company. It would seem the front office, led my CEO John Stankey, found the entertainment media wing untenable in the long term. The company was reportedly also looking for capital to invest in 5G.

The big winner here looks to be Zaslav, who has led Discovery since 2007. This deal puts his vision into an entirely new orbit. It’s a big challenge; it will be interesting to see what changes are made, and how soon.

Is this the last of the big media mergers? Have we our plutocratic chess pieces on the board, ready for action? This new entity looks to be a bigger company than both NBCUniversal and Netflix — with plenty of overseas programming and sports to be joined with CNN World and other incoming entities, perhaps there are some direct avenues for the new company to gain share. Upon the news, AT&T shares were up 3.5% and Discovery +14%; these are now +2% and +9.5%, respectively.

Also this morning, the Empire State Manufacturing Index for May posted a slight miss from expectations: 24.3 compared to the 24.8 estimate, and below the 26.3 reached in its April read. In fairness, last month’s print was the highest we’d seen in almost five years, and anything over 20 brings manufacturing productivity for New York state to its highest tier. (It’s all-time high, for an index that began in the early 2000s, was back in 2004 when it hit 39. In short, a strong result, though below estimates.

Infrastructure spending will gather new focus this week, as well, as Congress hashes through proposals to fix roads, bridges, airports, etc., which have not been addressed for many years. For the Biden administration, any infrastructure development must also include renewable energy with low (or no) carbon footprint, where possible. Also institutions like child care have been budgeted by the president’s plan; we shall see how much of this makes it into law.

Market indexes have got more slack to start a new trading week, following a down-week that looked like it was primed to begin making gains again. However, following overnight losses in international markets like Nikkei and FTSE in Europe, we currently see the Dow -130 points, the Nasdaq -80 and the S&P 500 -18. Perhaps we’ll see something turn attitudes around after the bell opens regular trading.

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