AT&T Inc. is preparing to spin off its media business and merge it with Discovery Inc. in a tax-friendly deal, according to people with knowledge of the matter, a surprise reversal for a company that spent $85 billion to acquire the assets less than three years ago.
A deal could be announced as soon as this week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The transaction will be structured as a so-called Reverse Morris Trust, or a merger with another company that’s structured to be tax-free, one of the people said.
The idea is to combine Discovery’s reality-TV empire with AT&T’s vast media holdings, building a business that would be a formidable competitor to Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co. Any deal would mark a major shift in AT&T’s strategy after years of working to assemble telecommunications and media assets under one roof. AT&T gained some of the biggest brands in entertainment through its acquisition of Time Warner Inc., which was completed in 2018.