Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), the media and entertainment giant, is reportedly in early-stage merger talks with major broadcast network Paramount Global.

Citing multiple sources, Axios said WBD chief executive David Zaslav met with his Paramount Global counterpart Bob Bakish on Tuesday (December 19) in New York to discuss a possible merger and has also spoken to Shari Redstone, owner of Paramount’s parent company.

During the talks, the report said the chief executives discussed ways their companies could complement each other, including merging WBD’s Max stream service with Paramount+ and combining CBS News with CNN to create a global news powerhouse.

WBD’s market value stands at around $29 billion, while Paramount’s is just over $10 billion so a deal could mean a combined market value standing at around $39 billion. Last month, WBD reported subscriber numbers at 95 million, while Paramount Plus subscribers total 63.4 million.

While talks are being held, a deal is not necessarily nailed on to happen, and with Paramount’s market value being significantly lower, any potential merger would not be equal.

The report arrives as Paramount comes under significant pressure to find a buyer or strategic partner due to the high levels of debt accrued while bulking up the Paramount+ streaming service. WBD, meanwhile, is in a better financial position due, in part, to the mergers it has secured.

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By GlobalData

WBD was created last year through a coming together of AT&T’s Warnermedia unit at media company Discovery, which created a media giant with a portfolio spanning movies, TV series, news, and sports. Paramount Global, meanwhile is the result of a merger of CBS and Viacom that closed in December 2019.

In terms of sport, both hold premium sports rights. Paramount most prominently holds English-language rights in the US to pan-European soccer’s UEFA Champions League until 2030. It also holds rights to American football’s NFL in a major tie-up through 2032.

Paramount+ specifically, meanwhile, covers sports such as soccer, golf, mixed martial arts, and college sports.

WBD, meanwhile, airs several major sports competitions via its traditional linear networks TNT and TBS and Max streaming service, including baseball’s Major League Baseball, ice hockey’s NHL, basketball’s NBA, college basketball’s March Madness, motor racing’s annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, and games involving the US national men’s and women’s soccer teams.

The media giant also holds a plethora of rights across Europe through its ownership of pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, including the Paris 2024 Olympics, tennis’ ATP men’s tour, as well as the Australia Open and French Open grand slams, FIS World Cup skiing, cycling's Tour de France, La Vuelta, and Giro d’Italia, and motor racing’s Formula E and Le Mans 24 hours.

In October, WBD announced it will launch its Max service across Europe in the first half of 2024, which will feature live sport via Eurosport.