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What Does The Discovery/ Warner Media Merger Mean For Animation?

One of last year's most surprising media stories last year was AT&T calling time on its ownership of the Warner Media empire, such a short time after the merger was finally approved. Warner quickly found another partner in the form of Discovery, with the new combined company Warner Bros Discovery becoming official just this month. Warner is a major investor in animation, so we have to wonder... will this have any effect on their animated output?

Although this is officially a merger of equal partners, in real terms Discovery has become Warner's new owner, with Discovery's head honcho ultimately calling the shots. We've already heard that the new management wants a shake-up at DC Entertainment, hoping to rival the mighty Marvel. DC's animated output has always been separate from their live-action business, so there's no reason to think it should be much different going forward. If anything they might encourage more to be produced. But is a similar reckoning coming for Cartoon Network, Adult Swim or Warner Bros Animation?

This merger is less predictable than the Disney/Fox merger. The idea here is that the two companies will complement each other as they don't necessarily cater to the same audience. When Disney bought 20th Century Fox the writing was on the wall for Blue Sky- anybody could see that Disney wouldn't see a need for another animation studio under their umbrella. Discovery meanwhile deals primarily in factual and reality programming so there's less likely to be overlap. Discovery does in fact produce some animation (mainly for their Discovery Kids brand) but it's not anywhere near the same scale of animation produced by or for Warners. 

The worst-case scenario would be if the new boss happened to be somebody who just doesn't get animation and doesn't respect the medium- perhaps sees it as just 'kid's stuff'. Cutbacks and job losses are always a possibility in cases of mergers and changing owners, and we hope they can be avoided. Anything is possible in business.

Hopefully, the new management will look at the success of Warner's animation output and decide they know what they are doing. HBO Max was actually the third biggest streaming service in the US for the first quarter of 2022, beating Disney Plus*- and animation is no small part of that. Warner has a lot of established and experienced folk working on animation and are bringing in fresh talent too. The best-case scenario would be that Discovery leaves them alone, or even increase investment. And if Discovery are smart they'll know not to fix what's not broken.

The new company will be hosting their upfront presentation in New York on May 18, so perhaps the picture will be clearer then. Until then, all we can do is hope for the best.

* Souce: JustWatch Streaming Data