Discovery CEO, With Warner Still to Close, Sees More Media Deals

Discovery Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav, fresh from his announced acquisition of AT&T Inc.’s film and TV businesses, said media consolidation will only accelerate and he intends to be a catalyst.

“The talk of the week is going to be that the industry is going to start consolidating a little bit more,” the 61-year-old CEO said on his arrival Tuesday at the annual Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. “We’re not done yet.”

Discovery CEO, With Warner Still to Close, Sees More Media Deals

Zaslav pulled off one of the media industry’s biggest deals ever in May, combining Discovery -- the parent of Food Network and HGTV -- with AT&T’s Warner Bros. film studio, Turner cable networks and HBO Max streaming service. Zaslav said the deal could close in eight months, though it may also take longer.

During that time he’ll be looking at whether to keep Discovery+ as a separate streaming service from HBO Max, which costs $10 a month more, he said.

The recent $8.45 billion acquisition of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio by Inc. underscores the need for participants in the online video boom to bulk up, according to Zaslav.

“We’re all vying for eyeballs and people’s time, and we’re all telling stories,” he said. “I think the Amazon deal with MGM is interesting. It reinforces that we needed to be bigger.”

Who’s Who

The Sun Valley Conference, which attracts a who’s who of the finance, tech and media worlds, wasn’t held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, extra precautions are in place. All guests have to provide a negative test within 72 hours of arriving, according to people familiar with the matter, On arrival they have to show that negative test and also their proof of vaccination. Additionally, they have to sign a release with the Mayo Clinic certifying they understand the risks and agreeing to an additional test on arrival, the people said. Unlike past years, no children are allowed.

In what may be a sign that some guests are afraid of flying commercial airlines and even moguls don’t want to hitch a ride in their friends’ jets, the Friedman Memorial Airport there is expecting private jet arrivals to exceed levels seen in prior years, according to a person familiar with the levels of traffic.

The invite-only conference, hosted by the boutique investment bank Allen & Co., is traditionally held annually at the idyllic Sun Valley Resort following the July 4 holiday. Historically it’s been fertile ground for deals in the world of media, tech and telecommunications.

Attendees arriving Tuesday included Walt Disney Co. Executive Chairman Bob Iger and CEO Bob Chapek, Netflix Inc.’s co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, and Comcast Corp.’s Brian Roberts, along with Jeff Shell, head of the cable giant’s NBCUniversal division.

While a lot of the event’s meetings, speeches and seminars have typically taken place outdoors, this year the hosts are making an extra effort to do so. Allen & Co. will make use of Sun Valley’s outdoor pavilion for the first time.

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