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Kevin Mayer enlisted as consultant on Discovery-WarnerMedia merger

Former Disney and TikTok executive Kevin Mayer will serve as a consultant on the impending merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia, Discovery’s president and CEO David Zaslav revealed Wednesday.

Kevin Mayer

Mayer, who is currently the co-head of an unnamed company backed by private-equity firm Blackstone Group, as well as the chairman of sports streaming company DAZN Group, is being brought in to lend his expertise and help the teams at Discovery and WarnerMedia hone their go-to-market strategy, which has not yet been unveiled.

During an investor call announcing the third-quarter results, Zaslav said Mayer’s experience in spearheading the global roll-out of Disney’s direct-to-consumer product Disney+ will make him a valuable asset as the merger of the two content giants gets underway.

“Having Kevin Mayer in the passenger seat, with all his knowledge and expertise having built and driven Disney+ globally, I think will help to finalise and fully inform our strategy,” said Zaslav, who is set to lead the combined company, Warner Bros Discovery, when the transaction closes.

Mayer was formerly the chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, overseeing the launches of both Disney+ and ESPN+. He left Disney in May 2020 for a short-lived stint as CEO of social media platform TikTok.

More recently, he has joined forces with Tom Staggs, another Disney alumnus, to launch a still-unnamed media company backed by private-equity firm Blackstone Group. Among the investments made through that company was the acquisition of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine company for around US$900m.

The Discovery-WarnerMedia deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval, remains on track to close in the middle of 2022, said Zaslav.

David Zaslav

If approved, it will bring WarnerMedia’s HBO, CNN and HBO Max under the same umbrella as Discovery’s suite of cablenets, including Discovery Channel, TLC and HGTV, and its direct-to-consumer offering Discovery+.

While execs overseeing the merger have said the “go-to-market” strategy has already been drawn up, they have declined to reveal it while the regulatory approval process is still continuing.

Key questions remain over what the merged entity will look like, and whether Discovery+ and HBO Max will be rolled into a single service in the long term. In the short term, HBO Max is not able to launch as a D2C offering in certain territories as WarnerMedia has long-term licensing deals in place with local broadcasters and media companies.

The announcement of Mayer’s involvement in the global strategy came during a Discovery investor call in which the company discussed its third-quarter results.

Discovery said it had around 20 million streaming subscribers internationally at the end of Q3, an increase of around three million from Q2. The company attributed the growth in its D2C business partly to the Summer Olympics and Shark Week.

In Q3, revenue rose 23% to US$3.15bn compared with the previous year. Compared with the prior year, US advertising revenues increased 5% and distribution revenues increased 21%. International advertising revenues increased 28% and distribution revenues increased 7%.

Discovery’s merger with AT&T’s WarnerMedia was first announced in May. The deal with see WarnerMedia’s parent AT&T receive US$43bn in cash, debt securities and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt. AT&T shareholders will receive a 71% stake in the new company, with Discovery shareholders taking the remaining 29%.


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