WarnerMedia is an American media conglomerate owned by telecom company AT&T.
HistoryWhile the company is named after Warner Bros. Pictures, their flagship subsidiary, the roots of WarnerMedia as a whole stretch back to the 1940s, and the New York-area parking garage concern Kinney Parking. Over the next couple of decades, Kinney grew from just parking to having holdings in a variety of businesses, including funeral homes, cleaning companies, construction firms and car rental (and naturally, this all meant The Mafia was deeply ingrained into the company's operations). The head of the company was forward-thinking chairman Steve Ross, who had married into the founding family of the funeral parlor side.
In the late 1960s, he began expanding into the entertainment industry, buying talent agency Ashley-Famous, two different comic book companies (National Periodical Publications and EC Publications), and film camera firm Panavision. Kinney's next logical step was to buy a film studio, choosing the faltering Warner Bros.-Seven Arts (as it was known then; the Seven Arts part was dropped almost immediately after the Kinney deal), which also brought Warner (Bros.) Records and Atlantic Records into the fold. Ashley-Famous had to be sold, due to antitrust laws prohibiting a film studio and talent agency being in common ownership. Soon after, Ross then installed Ashley-Famous head Ted Ashley as head of WB. Under their leadership, WB was revitalized, entering the 1970s in a big way.
After a financial scandal involving the parking garages, Ross chose to spinoff those and other non-media business as the National Kinney Corporation in 1972, and Kinney National became Warner Communications, adopting the famous "Big W" logo designed by Saul Bass company-wide, including at Warner Bros. itself. The 1970s saw further growth and expansion into all sorts of new areas; Ross saw potential when many others didn't. He invested into cable television, and helped create QUBE, a unique interactive cable experiment in Columbus, OH; American Express joined Warner later on to help finance QUBE's expansion. QUBE wound up spawning three major networks owned by Warner-Amex: Nickelodeon, MTV and The Movie Channel. Ultimately, QUBE's interactive components were too expensive, and combined with data privacy concerns, led to Amex selling out their stake in the venture; all three channels wound up being sold to Viacom (which had already partnered with WASEC for their pay-TV network Showtime to be part of a joint venture with TMC) to make up the deficit. Another venture that started off well was Warner's acquisition of Atari. Purchasing the small company in 1976, Warner reaped the benefits as Atari led the first big video game boom.... and then got burned by The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Warner would sell Atari in 1984.
1989 saw the major turning point of the company's history, as Time, Inc. — owner of namesake Time and many other magazines, as well as the country's leading pay-TV service, HBO — sought to merge with Warner. Paramount Communications attempted to block the merger by various means, but ultimately failed, leading to the formation of Time Warner in 1990. This united the company's respective cable operations into one company, Time Warner Cable, which continued to use the original "combined eye/ear" logo long after the rest of the company abandoned it. Ross, however, died in 1992, and subsequent leadership, who mostly came from the Time side via HBO, attempted to discourage the synergy Ross had sought from the merger, and instead promote internal competition; this strategy often led to different segments of the company not working together well, if at all. One of these moves was to hive off the entertainment assets into a holding company, Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P., with telecom company US West. Other expansions during this period came via the acquisition of Six Flags theme parks, which began usage of Warner properties, in 1993 (though Six Flags was sold in 1998, they continue to use Warner and DC properties for rides and attractions). A notable failure was their attempt at an internet portal, Pathfinder; Pathfinder was not well-liked by the other divisions, and its lack of focus led to a series of embarrassing blunders and the portal's shuttering in 1999.
1996 saw the company grow even more, as it merged with the Turner Broadcasting System, acquiring a boatload of basic cable channels, two different film companies (New Line Cinema and Castle Rock Entertainment), and the rights to both the pre-1948 Warner Bros. library (which had been sold off years prior) and the pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library. note This, however, ended up leading to further infighting amongst the company's various divisions.
At the dawn of the New Millennium, Time Warner announced it was to merge with yet another company, the phenomenally-successful America Online (AOL). In practice, despite being supposedly a "merger of equals", AOL was to dominate the new AOL Time Warner. The deal proved to be a disaster, including little of the hoped-for synergy, primarily because of the aforementioned issues with the different divisions, exacerbated by AOL's presence. AOL's rapid fall from grace as people switched from dial-up to broadband resulted in the company bleeding money. Another open wound was Jamie Kellner's disastrous reign as head of the Turner Broadcasting division; he had been imported from The WB Television Network (which was reassigned to Turner for this period). Kellner was responsible for the closure and sale of Turner's World Championship Wrestling, due to that unit's continued financial losses (in part, due to the company's own internal issues), despite WCW Monday Nitro being TNT's highest-rated show by then. Between all of this, AOL was quickly removed from the name, and a slim-down period began. Non-core assets like the Warner Music Group and Warner Books were spun-off. 2009 saw the spinoff of Time Warner Cable (which continued to use the name under a licensing agreement until 2016, when it was acquired by Charter Communications) and AOL itself (the latter being acquired by Verizon in 2015).
By the early 2010s, even Time Inc, itself, one-half of the company's name, was gone (leaving the TimeWarner name an Artifact Title), thanks to the magazine industry declining. The company was down to Warner Bros, HBO, and Turner as its' major assets. In 2016, it was announced that AT&T was going to purchase TimeWarner. The deal was held up until 2018, the result of the Department of Justice suing to block the merger on antitrust grounds (though political motivations were also alleged).note Ultimately, a court ruled in AT&T's favor and the merger was allowed to proceed. Upon the deal closing, the company was renamed to WarnerMedia.
AT&T began to reorganize the newly-rebranded company, in an effort to prevent the infighting that had plagued it and to increase synergy. For example, Toonami, [adult swim]'s anime and action programming block, has been collaborating with anime streaming service Crunchyroll on acquisitions and co-productions. AT&T would also announce plans for an all-encompassing streaming service, which would ultimately emerge as HBO Max in 2020.
Assets owned by WarnerMedia include:
Warner Bros. Pictures
- New Line Cinema
- Castle Rock Entertainment
- Turner Entertainment Co. (holding company for pre-1948 WB material and pre-1986 MGM material, among others)
- Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
- Cartoon Network
- Turner Classic Movies
- DC Comics
- The CW (half-owned by ViacomCBS)
WarnerMedia News and Sports
- CNN International
- CNN Airport Network
- Turner Sports
- Bleacher Report
- AT&T SportsNet RSNs
- NBA TV (operations only)