Apple, Time Warner executives discussed acquisition in 2015

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Apple may be one of the few companies with the balance sheet to purchase WarnerMedia-Discovery, and it has historical ties to the media company, including past talks of a takeover.

AT&T intends to merge its WarnerMedia assets with Discovery in a deal structured specifically to give the company flexibility. According to CNBC, that could lead to a future merger or sale down the road — maybe to Apple.

It's likely that the WarnerMedia-Discovery company will have a market capitalization of more than $100 billion when it begins publicly trading in 2022. Apple is among a few companies that has the cash to make such an acquisition.

Although it's unclear whether Apple is interested in buying a media giant, CNBC has highlighted some of the historical ties between WarnerMedia and the Cupertino tech giant.

In 2015, for example, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Apple SVP of software and services Eddy Cue met with Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of then-named Time Warner, and former Time Warner executive VP Olaf Olafsson. The executives met to discuss potential partnership opportunities surrounding Apple offering Time Warner content.

For example, the executives talked about offering Turner and HBO content outside of the cable bundle for $19 a month. At the time, HBO Go was available separately from the cable ecosystem, but it didn't include CNN, TBS, TNT, or other Turner networks.

They discussed Apple being the exclusive provider of the offer, giving Apple customers the opportunity to purchase the bundle through the iTunes stores. However, concerns were raised about the deal hurting both companies' other relationships.

Although the companies backed away from the idea, Cook and Bewkes reportedly discussed Apple acquiring Time Warner in an effort to do away with their concerns. Although Cue expressed interest in an acquisition, Cook wasn't ready to commit to what would have likely become a $100 billion deal.

In late 2016, Bewkes inked a deal to sell Time Warner to AT&T for more than $105 billion, including debt. That same year, Bewkes said that Apple was never "serious" about acquiring Time Warner.

Apple also has another connection to the WarnerMedia company: Former HBO chief Richard Piepler, who signed a five-year deal to produce content for Apple TV+ in June 2020.

While Apple is currently under antitrust scrutiny and a deal as large as a Time Warner acquisition could raise alarms, the takeover could boost the profile of Apple TV+. Apple's premium streaming service has largely failed to see the same success as rivals like Netflix, Amazon, or Disney+.

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