AT&T assets such as CNN and DC Comics could be turned inside out, in a good way, by the incoming merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery into Warner Discovery and Congress is taking action.
In a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Justice Department antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter, thirty Democrat Congressmen including Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the merger raises “significant” concerns over “competition in the media and entertainment industry.”
“This transaction raises significant antitrust concerns,” the letter said. “In particular, the merger threatens to enhance the market power of the combined firm and substantially lessen competition in the media and entertainment industry, harming both consumers and American workers. In light of these concerns, we respectfully urge the Department to conduct a thorough review of this transaction to ensure that it does not harm American consumers and workers by illegally harming competition.”
If these are real, tenable concerns, AT&T CEO John Stankey isn’t moved by Congress’s anti-trust qualms when letters like the one at hand are a regular thing that creeps up like a symbolic gesture during the closing of a merger.
“Having been through a number of these [transactions] in my career, getting letters from members of Congress is not unusual,” Stankey said after calling the oppositional letter “unfounded.” “When you have a lot of members of Congress, there’s always going to be those that have a different lens they want to put on something”.
This anti-trust letter coincided with a workshop about competition in labor markets conducted on Dec. 6th and 7th by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Beyond that, there’s speculation the Dem Congressmen who wrote it are actually expressing frustration out of fear the new Warner Discovery conglomerate will have a negative effect on CNN.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav will be in charge of the new entity after the merger closes next year and he promised to move to Los Angeles to be “hands-on” with the creation of the company’s “content.”
In November, Zaslav said to the Paley Center’s Paley International Council Summit webcast “I am moving to California” because “that is where the content is made; this is a content company,” according to THR, in a salvo that further indicates he is a money man that will be beholden to profits than an agenda.
We’ve already seen signs of this before AT&T initiated the sale of WarnerMedia to Discovery. They’re dumping Crunchyroll which won’t be a part of HBO Max as of January and Rooster Teeth was split in two starting in 2019. Afterward, its principal players were fired which happened company-wide amid the mass layoffs from every corner of Warner – including DC Comics.
Ethan Van Sciver and others predict DC will get sold to some extent but it won’t be the first domino to fall once the merger goes through and Zaslav takes control, or so Clownfish TV’s Kneon guesses. Cable news giant CNN looks like they will be in more trouble.
A portent that revamping the network into a more balanced and objective news source is an undertaking Discovery has in mind came last month from Liberty Media Chair John Malone, who is also the top shareholder on Discovery’s board of directors.
“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said in a CNBC interview.
It should be understood this is Malone’s personal belief and not necessarily a governing sentiment at Discovery, but if it is a mindset that takes hold with Zaslav, then serious changes could be in store for CNN that lead to less narrative-pushing by the channel’s anchors and newsroom.
Should that come to pass, it would mark a loss for the mainstream media that Kneon believes will cause Hollywood and DC Comics to panic. After all, they’d be next in the shakeup and the days of woke storytelling might then be over.