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Warner Bros. Discovery halts merger talks with Paramount Global, sources say

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President and C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav speaks during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery has gone “pencils down” on a potential acquisition of Paramount Global, halting talks after several months of kicking the tires on merging the media companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

Skydance Media, the film and TV studio run by David Ellison, is still performing due diligence on a potential transaction, two of the people said, who asked to speak anonymously because deal talks are private.

Paramount Global has set up a special committee, which has hired its own financial advisor, to sift through potential bids for the whole company or certain assets. Media mogul Byron Allen offered $14 billion for the company last month, though he has a history of bidding on and not buying large media assets.

Comcast, the owner of CNBC parent NBCUniversal, isn’t interested in acquiring Paramount Global assets, one of the people said. Comcast has been working with house bankers to explore a potential commercial partnership with Paramount Global, according to people familiar with the matter.

That could include bundling or merging streaming services Peacock and Paramount+, as previously reported by The Wall Street Journal, or a different arrangement. Still, it’s unclear if Paramount Global would have interest in this as it explores sale scenarios.

Spokespeople for Comcast, Paramount Global, Skydance Media and Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment.

Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav had a preliminary conversation with Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish, CNBC reported in December. The companies engaged in more serious merger discussions in January, but talks have cooled off this month.

Warner Bros. Discovery shares fell 10% on Friday after the company missed analyst targets for earnings and revenue. The stock has fallen 47% in the past year and is near a 52-week low.

Paramount Global is also trading close to a 52-week low as it prepares to announce its earnings Wednesday.

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