Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/KENA BETANCUR

Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/KENA BETANCUR

Just when you think the media industry is set to fade into the sunset like a heroic cowboy at the end of a spaghetti western, AT&T launches an audacious US$85.4bn bid for media giant Time Warner in the US.

This deal is shy of the $100bn takeover of SA’s SABMiller by AB InBev last year. However, it’s still the largest deal of 2016 and enough to cause much media angst.

If telecoms firm AT&T succeeds in buying Time Warner — which owns entertainment channel HBO, CNN and Warner Brothers — it could trigger other cross-industry deals.

But at its heart, it’s an attempt by two industries facing shrinking margins to look for extra customers by combining their products. Already, people are using their phones and the Internet to watch entertainment channels.

As The New York Times put it, this deal is a way "to do something, anything, to get a grip on a rapidly changing future". In this world, the companies argued, bigger is faster.

SA isn’t immune, with rumours rife that newspaper companies and TV stations are either on the block or mulling mergers.

But there are a myriad competition issues at play, so don’t hold your breath.