5 Impacts a Warner Bros. Discovery - Paramount Merger Could Make


Recently, it was announced by multiple outlets that Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount have had preliminary discussions regarding a potential merger. Such a deal would cause significant impact across the entertainment industry, including television — whether that be broadcast, cable, or streaming. As of now, the consensus is that these talks are more hypothetical and are not expected to lead to a completed merger in the immediate future. Should Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount ultimately decide to merge, here are five potential impacts: 

1. Cable Network Realignment

As ratings for cable television rapidly shrink, content has been reduced on many networks to news, reruns, unscripted series, and/or live sports programming. Many scripted series that would have aired on cable just 5 or 10 years ago are now streaming originals. If Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount were to merge, the future of some of these cable networks may be put into question.

Currently, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount own several competing cable networks. For example, Paramount owns Showtime while WBD owns HBO and Cinemax; Paramount owns Nickelodeon while WBD owns Cartoon Network; and Paramount owns Comedy Central while WBD owns TruTV. If the two companies were to merge, either the same company would own all these networks (and many more), or there will be some to shutter.

A merger would also not only allow for, but possibly require, some of these networks to potentially go through rebrands. A merged company would not want to compete with itself, but would be doing so if, say, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network stayed put in their current forms. Under a merger, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the kids-oriented shows on one network and the adult-oriented Nick At Nite and Adult Swim blocks combined on the other. If they kept the status quo, the only winner here in such a merger would be Disney. 

2. Paramount+ and Max Could Merge

Speaking of competing with themselves, a merged Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount would be doing just that in the streaming facet should Max and Paramount+ continue to exist only as standalone services. There is bound to be one larger streamer to come out of a potential merger, including everything that would otherwise be offered by Max and Paramount+. Perhaps they would keep one of the names and simply add the other’s assets. They could also shut down both and relaunch with a new streaming service, the way Warner Bros. Discovery did when they turned HBO Max into Max and added content from Discovery+. 

According to Nielsen, Max has slightly higher usage than Paramount+, with 1.2% of viewers measured using Max in October 2023 compared to 0.9% using Paramount+. Both are lackluster figures, and likely is a large part of why Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount have even started to talk about a merger. Users of the TV show tracking website Just Watch feel similarly about Max and Paramount+, with Max having a 15% share amongst streamers in Q4 of 2023 and Paramount+ just an 8% share. On the positive side, both are rising from the beginning of 2023 (Max from HBO Max). 

One question is if everything from Max and Paramount+ would make said combined streaming service, or if they would simply want to start over with the best-performing titles from both. With both known to scrub low-performing shows on short notice, one would be inclined to believe the latter is a strong possibility. 

3. CBS Would Have Another Sister Studio

With broadcast television ratings also on the decline, we’ve seen networks start to prioritize shows produced by their sister studios; in other words, shows their parent company owns. For example, in the 2022-23 TV season, CBS renewed the CBS Studios-produced new series So Help Me Todd while canceling the slightly higher-rated Warner Bros-owned new series East New York. They are also parting ways with Bob Hearts Abishola and Young Sheldon at the end of the upcoming spring 2024 season, leaving zero Warner Bros-produced shows on CBS. The number of Warner Bros-produced shows on CBS would arguably increase should a merger between Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount go through. Similar to how ABC has sister studios in both ABC Signature and 20th Television, CBS would have sister studios in both both CBS Studios and Warner Bros. Television. 

4. Warner Bros. Would Own A Big 4 Broadcast Network

Under a merger between Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount, not only would more Warner Bros. Television shows likely make it to air, but Warner Bros. would actually have an ownership in a major broadcast network. This is something they have clearly wanted for a long time, starting with the creation of The WB in the mid-90s and continuing with The CW in the mid-aughts. However, neither The WB nor The CW grew to compete with the likes of ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX, and now Warner Bros. is left with just a 12.5% stake in the Nexstar-controlled CW. With Warner Bros. shows increasingly shut out from the broadcast networks in the name of being unowned productions, having ownership of a broadcast network would be the only way for Warner Bros. to maintain a presence on broadcast TV. While Paramount is overall a significantly smaller company than Warner Bros. Discovery, the former could gain some leverage in negotiations simply through Warner Bros.’ presumed desire to own CBS. 

5. CBS News and CNN Could Have the Same Owner

Under a merger between all assets from Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount, Warner’s CNN and Paramount’s CBS News would be owned by the same company. This is similar in theory to how several competing cable networks would have the same owner, but potentially much more dangerous given it would mean less competition in the news industry. It’s something that would likely be a hurdle to a merger, and could cause CNN to ultimately be excluded. After all, Fox News was left out of the Disney acquisition; Disney would have owned both Fox News and ABC News otherwise.  

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