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Zazmania Takes Over Hollywood as the Warner-Discovery Plot Thickens

David Zaslav
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 4, 2021

Talk to people at Warner Bros. or HBO these days and invariably they’ll ask: So… what are you hearing from Discovery? And vice versa: What’s the buzz at Warners? There’s a reason for that, of course. As AT&T’s $43 billion punt of WarnerMedia to Discovery sails toward a possible closing date in mid-2022, everyone—top to bottom, but especially at the top—is looking for an angle.

It’s easy to see why. A merger of two complementary media behemoths under Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav will necessarily produce winners and losers, elevated leaders and discarded also-rans, new priorities and tossed-off strategies. Thanks to regulatory rules, the two sides aren’t allowed to discuss non-public details of their respective businesses with each other. The result—like in many combinations of this scope, but exacerbated because these are all Hollywood people—has been a prolonged game of bicoastal Telephone where even the top executives in New York, Silver Spring, and Burbank are communicating through conduits, talking to everyone about their future colleagues. Everyone, bizarrely, except each other.