Big M&A and Bob Iger’s future: 13 media executives make their anonymous 2024 predictions

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: C.E.O. of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger speaks during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City. Andrew Ross Sorkin returns for the NYT summit for a day of interviews with Vice President Kamala Harris, President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-Wen, C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and leaders in business, politics and culture.  (Phot

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the third annual anonymous media and entertainment executive predictions list!

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, I asked 12 past and current executives at the world’s biggest media and entertainment companies for one industry-shaking prediction for 2024. And then I asked one more because this is the holiday season, and I was feeling generous. A baker’s dozen! Actually, I asked a few more, but some overlapped.

Quite a few of last year’s predictions were accurate. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger did extend his contract. Christine McCarthy stepped down as Disney’s chief financial officer. Paramount Global hasn’t been sold, but controlling shareholder Shari Redstone is now in talks to sell National Amusements. Google’s YouTube acquired the National Football League’s “Sunday Ticket” package.

Some weren’t as good. The media industry didn’t bounce back from recession as well as one executive hoped. Netflix didn’t merge with another company. Apple didn’t ban TikTok from its app store.

Alas, hope springs eternal with a new year.

Executive 1: Comcast will spin off NBCUniversal and merge it with Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery is approaching the two-year anniversary of its 2022 merger, when Discovery combined with WarnerMedia. That deadline is important for Reverse Morris Trust tax reasons. Without getting into the boring details, the important part is Warner Bros. Discovery can do another significant deal two years after the close of Discovery and WarnerMedia.

David Zaslav speaks onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City.

One executive targeted NBCUniversal as the most likely acquirer of Warner Bros. Discovery. This executive predicted Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would spin off NBCUniversal so that the new company would trade separately. But, Comcast (and Roberts) would keep a controlling stake of the ownership of the new entity.

A second executive suggested a more expansive scenario. Comcast will keep its theme parks business but sell the rest of the company in exchange for WBD common shares. Comcast will get a premium for the remainder of NBCUniversal in exchange for Roberts giving up his voting shares. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav runs the combined company, with NBCUniversal film chief Donna Langley staying on to run an expanded studio

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