Mar 5, 2019 - Politics & Policy

AT&T shakes up WarnerMedia amid merger drama


AT&T office in New York. Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Just days after AT&T finally defeated the government's months-long effort to thwart its merger with Time Warner, the Texas-based phone company announced plans on Monday to restructure its newly acquired media assets to make it more competitive in today's tech-driven media environment.

The big picture: It comes as a New Yorker report alleges President Trump abused his power by ordering his then-chief of staff John Kelly and then-chief economic adviser Gary Cohn to ensure that the DOJ sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal. (Democratic lawmakers are now crying foul.)

Why it matters: This has been one of the most dramatic mergers in recent history. A controversial deal approval process combined with a drastic shakeup at WarnerMedia shows just how bitter corporate and real-world politics can get.

Details: The overhaul is meant to streamline efforts across WarnerMedia, which will allow it to more efficiently scale its content offerings and bolster its new steaming media service, a product that it hopes will one day compete with the likes of Netflix.

  • John Stankey, a longtime AT&T executive who is now CEO of WarnerMedia, has overseen the changes, which resulted in the surprise exits of longtime HBO and Turner bosses Richard Plepler and David Levy, respectively.
  • Bob Greenblatt, longtime NBC and Showtime exec, has been brought in to oversee WarnerMedia's entertainment and direct-to-consumer division, which will include newly acquired cable networks, like TNT and TBS, as well as WarnerMedia's premium cable channel HBO.
  • Jeff Zucker, who will continue his role as president of CNN, will now oversee WarnerMedia's News & Sports division, which includes CNN, as well as Turner Sports and Bleacher Report.
  • Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. CEO, will expand his portfolio to oversee WarnerMedia's Global Kids and Young Adults division, which includes assets like Adult Swim and Cartoon Network.

Be smart: AT&T says the restructuring is about creating more content, not cutting costs, but it's hard to imagine that a deal this big wouldn't result in any synergies.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the biggest cuts will take place at Turner, which accounted for much of Time Warner's operating income.

Go deeper: AT&T defeats Justice Department bid to overturn Time Warner deal

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