Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount tipped to merge — streaming wars ratchet up to the Max

Max and Paramount Plus merger
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Two of the biggest streaming services may be merging in 2024.

First reported by Axios, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global are now reportedly in serious talks about a potential merger between the two media companies. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish apparently met at Paramount HQ in New York to discuss the potentially seismic shift in the media landscape.

This isn’t completely out of the blue, at least in part — both Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount have been tipped for mergers and acquisitions in recent months. But meetings between the two companies still represent a significant step. Both companies are saddled with significant debt and lag significantly behind Netflix and Disney in the streaming wars and the stock market. A merger with someone, or a potential sale, was always going to be a likely move for survival. 

ParaMax Plus with HBOtime: What this merger means for you 

In the near term, don’t start changing your subscriptions. A potential merger can’t be announced until April 2024 at the earliest, as Warner Bros. Discovery is required to wait two years from its April 2022 merger before merging again.

Additionally, there’s no guarantee that this merger will actually happen. While it makes a lot of sense, Paramount and its parent company National Amusements Inc. both have their share of suitors, including private equity firms, which could be more appealing to shareholders. For what it’s worth, the stock market did not react kindly to the merger talks, with both companies’ share prices falling.

But assuming it does go through, here’s how it's most likely to impact you:

  • A super streaming app that combines Warner, Turner, HBO, Discovery CBS, Paramount and Showtime content all under one roof — essentially the current versions of Max and Paramount Plus with Showtime as a single app. This would instantly become a contender for the top streaming service alongside Netflix and Disney Plus, which just started integrating Hulu content into its app.
  • CBS and Turner Sports could combine for a sports behemoth that rivals ESPN and could even merit a dedicated streaming service or app. Adding CBS Sports to Max’s new Bleacher Report Sports add-on would be pretty logical, and give the company a chance to rebrand from a terrible name.
  • Plans for CNN Plus could be revived, as the new megacorporation could also offer CBS News in addition to CNN, though like with sports, this makes more sense as a paid add-on or an ad-supported add-on to the new super streaming app.

In short, the merger would provide a streaming service and live TV options that would rival cable. Hopefully, for consumers, it won’t cost quite as much.  

Outlook: This merger is probably happening 

In an article we’ll have coming out later this month, our streaming team put together a wish list of everything we want to happen in the streaming world during 2024. And towards the top of my list was streaming consolidation — and Paramount Plus was the most likely candidate.

Now, while I wanted Peacock to be the one to absorb Paramount Plus for competitive reasons — I think both services need a better reason for existing than they currently offer — I mentioned that broadcast networks could prevent that from happening. Paramount owns CBS and Peacock is owned by Comcast, which owns NBC. There’s no universe in which U.S. regulators allow one company to own two broadcast networks and FCC rules “effectively prohibit” it.

That’s why this merger is probably happening. Warner Bros. Discovery’s lack of a broadcast network makes it an easy partner for a merger and it needs to do something to compete with Netflix and Disney. The most likely thing that could prevent this merger from happening is if another suitor provided Paramount shareholders with a better offer than Warner’s. But if that doesn’t happen, this deal is as good as done. 

More from Tom's Guide

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.