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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

LABJ Insider: Streaming Ahead

Last week’s Discovery Inc.-WarnerMedia news was a very big deal for reasons beyond its $43 billion price tag.

AT&T’s decision to spin off its WarnerMedia properties — just three years after the phone giant paid $85 billion for them — was more than just a retreat from an ill-fated effort to build an entertainment empire.

The ownership change is a move that reverberates everywhere, but it especially hits home in Hollywood.

Because while the Warner entertainment empire stretches to New York and Atlanta and beyond, the heart of the business in many ways still beats at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank and in all the affiliated and ancillary companies throughout Los Angeles.

The arrival of Discovery and Chief Executive David Zaslav likely means an end to the controversial tenure of Warner-Media Chief Executive Jason Kilar.

And it probably signals the start of a new round of activity for the media industry, which is still trying to digest the shift to a streaming-first mentality and is just catching its breath after wrapping up labor contracts on multiple fronts.

Need proof that the merry-go-round is only speeding up? Just one day after the Discovery deal broke, word surfaced that Amazon.com Inc. was in talks to buy storied studio MGM for some $9 billion — another transaction likely driven by the growing appetite for streaming content.

And WarnerMedia’s heavily hyped HBOMax, which launched last year, rolls out a less expensive, ad-supported version at the top of June.  

All of this, of course, serves as a vivid reminder that the entertainment industry, regardless of which side of the Hollywood Hills you’re on, remains a crown jewel of L.A.’s business world.

• • •

Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, drove off with a piece of musical history last week.

Hamilton, who has been profiled by the Business Journal for her pioneering work as a Black woman leading a venture capital firm, paid $112,500 at auction for Janet Jackson’s 1956 Chevrolet 3100 Cameo pickup truck.

The fully restored, mint-condition ride was one of nearly 1,400 pieces of Janet Jackson memorabilia offered at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills. The event attracted thousands of online bidders and fans and benefited in part the charity Compassion International.

Celebrity-turned-entrepreneur Kim Kardashian also turned out, picking up Jackson’s outfit from the “If” music video for $25,000.

Hamilton’s truck, however, may have carried the day’s best bonus: The winning bid also earned her a private call from the Queen of Pop herself.

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