Heading into the new year, two major deals loom on Hollywood’s horizon. AT&T is planning to spin off WarnerMedia to Discovery, and Amazon is set to buy MGM, a struggling movie studio with one major asset: James Bond.
Both deals could run into antitrust issues. The Amazon-MGM deal faces a general anti-big tech sentiment at the moment, and some Democrats in Congress have flagged the Discovery-WarnerMedia deal as an example of problematic consolidation in Hollywood.
The irony is that Amazon may well have actually overpaid for MGM, and in the case of WarnerMedia, the company desperately needed to get out from under the thumb of AT&T, and the industry generally views Discovery as the savior in this situation.
If the Discovery-WarnerMedia deal does go through, Discovery’s David Zaslav will run the combined entity. So far, it looks like Zaslav will work to contrast his style to current WarnerMedia head Jason Kilar, who angered a lot of talent and had to write a lot of checks when he decided to put all of WarnerMedia’s 2021 movies on its streaming service HBO Max. Zaslav hopes to make a better impression with talent, but there will no doubt still be challenges as he moves from running Discovery, which is known for a lot of low-budget reality programming, to dealing with the big stars of Warner Bros. movies and HBO TV shows.
Another challenge facing WarnerMedia in 2022 is what to do with HBO Max. It’s possible the company will rebrand the streaming service, maybe changing the name to something like “Max,” to make it clear that there’s more content on the streamer than just HBO shows. Once the deal with Discovery goes through, Zaslav will also have to decide if he wants to merge Discovery’s streaming service with HBO Max.
Another CEO facing a lot of pressure in 2022 is Disney’s Bob Chapek. Wall Street is looking to him to continue to boost subscriber growth to the streaming service Disney+. One way to do that is to send big movies straight to streaming, but the big stars don’t like that. They want to see their movies open exclusively in theaters. And Chapek is already feeling the pressure to improve talent relations, especially after being sued by Scarlett Johansson for that very reason in 2021.
Finally there’s the question of what happens to legacy studios, especially Paramount. The Paramount+ streaming service so far can’t compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max. In 2021, Jim Gianopulos was fired as the head of Paramount and Brian Robbins was brought in instead. Shari Redstone, the chairman of Paramount parent company ViacomCBS, will likely be looking to sell the storied movie studio in the coming years or possibly even months, if she can find a buyer.