Watching This Week #112
Listings for May 29 to June 4, 2023; Corus channels appear set to leave Eastlink.
What that WarnerMedia / Discovery deal may or may not mean for Canadian TV, plus updates on the "Friends" reunion and a bunch more.
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[Update (May 23): Due to the Victoria Day holiday weekend, the next edition of our newsletter will now be on Tuesday, May 25.]
Welcome to the May 17, 2021 edition of This Week in WCIW, the weekly newsletter from Where Can I Watch – covering the latest news on where TV shows and movies will be available in Canada.
Occasionally we've looked at the Canadian media landscape and thought, "what if Bell and Corus traded some of their assets around, and made one-to-one deals with the big international players so the situation for Canadians was much less complicated?" Or even just, "why aren't these companies working more quickly to make their new content available here?"
More recently, though, we've realized that it'd be a fool's errand for Canadian media companies to try to make wholesale changes to fully align with international partners, or to otherwise chase every move made in the U.S. or elsewhere. Sometimes, barely before the ink is dry on one deal, some other thing pops up to put everything in flux again.
A prime example of that hit the news over the weekend. Bloomberg reported on Sunday, and the companies in question have this morning confirmed, that AT&T is planning to spin off WarnerMedia – which AT&T closed its purchase of barely three years ago (after an inital announcement in late 2016) – and merge it with Discovery Inc., which seems to be largely controlled by former cable magnate John Malone.
The announced transaction will give AT&T shareholders 71% of the combined company, but the spinoff structure means that AT&T itself will have no ongoing ownership in the merged company if and when the deal is completed, currently scheduled for mid-2022. (In other words, you can probably now safely ignore our past comments about the similarities in AT&T's and BCE's approaches to media.)
So what does this deal mean for Canada?
First, the deal will take some time to actually be finalized as noted above, and during that time, there is typically a standstill in place preventing other major developments at one company without the agreement of the other. So it's less likely (but not impossible) that there'll be any new developments about, say, Discovery+ programming in Canada while this merger is in process.
Second, if/when the deal actually goes through, it may not change the Canadian situation all that much initially. Bell Media and Corus Entertainment already have long-term relationships with both companies, and as far as we know, the deals they have will remain in place under their existing terms. Bell clearly has the stronger ties to Warner, but we'd argue the relations are about equivalent for Discovery, with Bell controlling the flagship Discovery brand but Corus controlling the rights to HGTV and Food Network (and occasionally selling broadcast rights to shows like Island of Bryan back to HGTV U.S.).
Third, while it seems like a few options are being considered including bundling, there's a strong possibility that Discovery+ and HBO Max will eventually merge. If so, and if there doesn't end up being a separate deal for Discovery+ programming, the merger would seem to at least open the door to some of what's now considered Discovery+ content being added to HBO Max's deals with Crave. Or it could end up with the combined company taking a more hardball approach and waiting out its existing deals.
In short: these things almost always end up being more complex than they first seem.
This past week, we added a post about Warner Bros.' latest hybrid movie release, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and updated our post about Sound of Metal to reflect its new availability on Crave.
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