WarnerMedia CEO exits as Discovery merger nears close

On Monday, April 11, the highly anticipated $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery was set to officially close. But a new report from Variety suggests the deal may actually close as early as this Friday, according to its sources. 

We already have somewhat of an idea of what will happen with the companies’ two streaming services, Discovery+ and HBO Max. Back in March, Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said that the megamerger would at first bundle Discovery+ and HBO Max together until they could figure out the best way to consolidate the two services into a single direct-to-consumer platform.

WarnerMedia not only owns HBO Max, but also linear network HBO, CNN (as well as new service CNN+), Warner Bros., DC Films, New Line Cinema, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Turner Sports and Rooster Teeth, among others. It is also part owner of The CW. Meanwhile, Discovery is the parent of Discovery+, Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Turbo/Velocity, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel and OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).

Streamers of both Discovery+ and HBO Max can expect a lot of changes to come, as the two companies will be combining huge content libraries that are equally unique in their own way, giving people a vastly complex offering. 

Also announced today, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar proclaimed his resignation in a memo ahead of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. 

In April 2020, Kilar was hired as CEO of WarnerMedia prior to the launch of the streaming service HBO Max. However, Kilar was up for the challenge as he was previously brought on as CEO of Hulu shortly after its 2007 launch.

Discovery Inc. CEO David Zaslav will take the reins, and the former WarnerMedia CEO has cultivated a streaming giant that Zaslav can bank on. And boy, will he make bank.

In May 2021, Zaslav signed a new employment contract that ends in 2027, which was designed to keep him at the company through its merger with WarnerMedia.

Per a regulatory filing in March, the value of Zaslav’s 2021 compensation package jumped to $246 million, a huge difference compared with $45.8 million in 2019. In 2020, it was $37.7 million.

Like Kilar, the Discovery Inc. CEO has lengthy experience in the industry and has led the company since 2007. 

Following the publication of this report, other executive exits from WarnerMedia were confirmed, including HBO Max Chief Andy Forssell and WarnerMedia studios and networks group chairman and CEO Ann Sarnoff.