AT&T Inc. is in talks to merge many of its media assets, including CNN, with Discovery Inc., sources with knowledge of the matter said, according to Financial Times Monday.
The Financial Times story said AT&T was nearing a deal to combine its content unit WarnerMedia LLC. with competitor Discovery to create a media company with an enterprise value of $150 billion, just a few years after acquiring the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Bros. Entertainment, people briefed about the matter said.
The deal would be a big change in strategy for the telecommunications company as its traditional TV businesses face growing pressure. The talks weren't complete and final details were being worked out.
Should AT&T and Discovery agree - which one of the sources said could be announced as soon as Monday - it would consolidate two of the biggest media businesses in the U.S.
Discovery is an American multinational mass media factual TV company based in New York City. Established in 1985, the company primarily operates a group of factual and lifestyle television brands, such as the namesake Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Science Channel and TLC.
Discovery shares were up 1.2% in after-hours trading late Sunday. AT&T shares were up 0.06% at the same time.
Bloomberg first reported news of the discussions between AT&T and Discovery. The two companies declined to comment.
AT&T's WarnerMedia group includes sports cable networks TBS and TNT. Discovery has a large lineup of reality-based cable channels, including Oprah Winfrey's OWN, HGTV, Animal Planet and the Food Network, The New York Times said.
The framework of the deal still remains under wraps, but AT&T - which has a market value of around $230 billion - is expected to have majority control of the merged companies. Discovery is worth about $24 billion, according to FT.
The talks are an indication of a significant reversal by AT&T, which put a large bet on media with its 2018 takeover of Time Warner for about $81 billion, in a deal that made it the most indebted nonfinancial company in the world.
Both AT&T and Discovery have poured in massive amounts of money in streaming to compete with Disney and Netflix. AT&T has invested heavily into creating HBO Max, which now has around 20 million subscribers. Discovery has 15 million streaming customers globally, most of them for its Discovery+ app.
Meanwhile, WarnerMedia executives were surprised a company that had experienced a series of layoffs since 2018 was in for yet another corporate restructuring.
"There's no way this deal doesn't make AT&T look like fools," Variety quoted a WarnerMedia executive as saying.