AT&TLatest News and Opinion
Posted Wednesday 12/05/18 at 10:56PM EST
Netflix proves it's the Walmart of media with its hefty Friends deal
“I compared Netflix one time to Walmart, not derogatorily,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said Tuesday at the UBS media conference. “It was taken derogatorily. But when I’m shopping and I say I need something XYZ, I go to Walmart. Well, if you’re looking for video content regardless of what it is, people will go to Netflix because it’s just a warehouse, and it’s an impressive warehouse of content.” As Michael Schneider points out, "the perception that Netflix offers almost everything is what keeps subscribers willing to keep paying $10.99 a month, even if in actuality there’s plenty of TV that can’t be found (and never will be) on the service. Netflix has become shorthand for' 'all things TV' in less than a decade, thanks to little competition and a willingness by Hollywood studios to license popular off-net shows like Friends, Full House, and The Office for a handsome fee... And the amazing thing is, even as they finally wake up and scramble to create their own services to combat Netflix’s domination, the traditional Hollywood studios still can’t resist that sweet, sweet cash." ALSO: WarnerMedia may not want to keep Friends streaming rights all to itself because it would have to pay expensive streaming fees.
Posted Wednesday 12/05/18 at 1:45PM EST
Hulu and AT&T to try "pause-vertising" -- advertising while a TV show is paused
"Imagine an ad for soda or beer that comes on the screen just as you decide to stop the action during a run of an episode of Black-ish on Hulu to go to the kitchen for a snack, or a pitch for toilet paper that begins to move in the moments before you choose to halt the video stream for a bathroom break," reports Brian Steinberg. "And yet, there’s no guarantee viewers will welcome 'pause-vertising' any more than they do the current crop of 30-second pitches."
Posted Tuesday 12/04/18 at 8:48PM EST
Hulu and Apple were reportedly also interested in acquiring Friends -- Netflix deal could be a preview of The Office streaming rights
Recode reports Hulu and Apple helped push the push the value of Friends reruns to the "around" $100-million mark that Netflix was willing to pay (or $70 million to $80 milllion, according to The Hollywood Reporter). Recode's Peter Kafka explains AT&T's new deal that will give Netflix the rights to Friends for 2019, but gives WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service the chance to stream the show afterwards. "In part that’s because there’s some chicken-and-egg going on here," says Kafka. "Friends is a valuable asset, so WarnerMedia would naturally want that asset in its own service instead of someone else’s... unless that WarnerMedia service ends up being a flop, in which case stashing Friends there means it is a wasted asset. So here’s the hedge WarnerMedia has ended up with: After 2019, WarnerMedia has the ability to pull Friends from Netflix altogether, and keep the show as an exclusive. Or it can let Netflix stream the show as well, at a discount of about 25 percent. Which means there’s a scenario where WarnerMedia can get another $75 million a year from Netflix and still use the show as a key part of its own streaming service." Kafka says this could be a preview of what happens to The Office rerun rights when they expire on Netflix because Comcast is considering its own streaming service.
Posted Tuesday 12/04/18 at 1:01PM EST
Friends reruns will stream on Netflix and also likely on WarnerMedia's new streaming service
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal reports of Netflix's potential new non-exclusive deal for Friends streaming rights: "The multiyear pact is in the process of being finalized," but "unlike the usual Netflix content deals, streaming exclusivity for Friends isn’t guaranteed for the length of the deal....Netflix will continue to be the exclusive streaming home of Friends for 2019. After that, WarnerMedia has an option to put the show on its own streaming platforms either exclusively or in a shared window." The lack of streaming exclusivity will likely mean that Netflix will pay less for rights to Friends. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed a non-exclusive deal is in the works. “That’s a Warner Bros. property,” the AT&T Chairman and CEO said this morning. “Well, (Netflix) re-signed it on a non-exclusive basis. What does that mean? That means Friends could go on to our platform as well.” UPDATE: Netflix will pay "around $100 million" to continue streaming Friends in 2019, a big jump from the $30 million a year it was paying.
Posted Saturday 12/01/18 at 12:30AM EST
Is it the beginning of the end of the end for satellite TV?
The CEO of AT&T Communications effectively declared the end of the satellite-TV era on Thursday when he said: “We’ve launched our last satellite." AT&T's DirecTV still has nearly 20 million subscribers, but the company is focusing on growing its online TV business.
Posted Monday 11/05/18 at 7:37AM EST
John Oliver rips HBO's parent AT&T for supporting "white nationalist" Steve King
Source: The Daily Beast
On Friday evening, AT&T's employee PAC publically announce it would no longer be making contributions with Iowa Rep. Steve King due to his white nationalist associations and views. “So the news really shouldn’t be ‘these companies bailed on him’ so much as ‘they were OK with him for a <i>shockingly long time,’” said Oliver on Last Week Tonight. “Although of course AT&T didn’t catch on to King’s white nationalism—picking up on clear signals isn’t exactly their forte!” ALSO: Oliver makes fun of NBC's Megyn Kelly mess.
Posted Friday 11/02/18 at 9:56AM EDT
Does AT&T's blackout of HBO on Dish Network prove President Trump was right to be concerned about the AT&T-Time Warner merger?
Source: New York Magazine
As Josh Barro points out, "one of the main concerns the Department of Justice raised in their unsuccessful effort to block the AT&T–Time Warner merger was that a company that owned both a lot of the television channels Americans watch (CNN, TNT, HBO and more), and systems many Americans use to get television channels (DirecTV and U-Verse), would have undue power to raise prices and withhold content. Of course, the president had some concerns of his own — but whatever his political motivations, there was a plausible case that the merger was harmful to consumer welfare, and could lead to higher prices and reduced availability of content."
Posted Wednesday 9/26/18 at 3:43AM EDT
AT&T thinks it can make commercials appealing in the Peak TV era
AT&T says it is finding new ways to monetize TV content. According to Variety, "AT&T intends to launch new kinds of TV ads....One concept the company is showcasing at an exhibit here would place a full-motion video commercial on a screen whenever a viewer decides to pause a show. AT&T is also working on 'shoppable commercials' that would allow viewers to buy what they see during an ad break – or even products they spot in a show itself."
Posted Wednesday 9/12/18 at 11:54PM EDT
AT&T boss: We should spend more money on HBO and less money on TBS and TNT
Source: The Wall Street Journal
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he wants to shift the resources for creating original shows on TNT, TBS and other Turner Networks to HBO. He tells The Wall Street Journal that the Turner channels would use some of that freed-up program time to air HBO reruns, which would help deliver more viewers to HBO. “A lot of the content spend is in Turner, specifically TNT and TBS," he says. "Is that really the highest and best use of capital? Or is it more appropriate and best use to put it toward HBO?” The plan would help boost HBO and make it a stronger competitor to Netflix.
Posted Monday 8/06/18 at 3:26AM EDT
John Oliver slams HBO's new owner AT&T over its "dogsh*t" customer service hotline
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
The Last Week Tonight host used a segment on the "inadequate" criminal justice system to take a shot at AT&T, saying: "It's built on the exact same model as AT&T's customer service hotline. That's right. AT&T: new owners of HBO, longtime owners of an unforgivably dogsh*t customer service hotline."
Posted Wednesday 7/25/18 at 3:24AM EDT
HBO's new overseer from AT&T confirms he wants more programming from the pay cable network
But WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey says a recent New York Times story on his plans for HBO, which implied that he wanted it to become broad and compete with Netflix, had not “effectively characterized what we are about." Stankey said he would pursue "a very responsible investment" in new shows at HBO. The team at HBO “feels comfortable that we can flex up on development in a way that rounds out the schedule very nicely,” Stankey said during an AT&T earnings call, adding: "We have a tremendous amount of great projects already in the funnel." ALSO: Stankey wants to have enough content so HBO subscribers don't cancel for parts of the year.
Posted Tuesday 7/10/18 at 11:58PM EDT
In defense of AT&T's plans to expand HBO
HBO's new overseer, John Stankey, telling the boutique pay cable channel that AT&T will invest more money so it can create broader programming is better than the alternative -- that HBO would have to cut costs, says Andrew Wallenstein. Regardless, HBO knows it can't rest on its laurels. "Don’t think for a second anyone at HBO is bemoaning the impending loss of its boutique status; these guys are hungry to scale up for for the fight against new rivals," says Wallenstein. "Stankey may have looked like a hardliner by demanding HBO exceed 40% penetration of the pay-TV world but (HBO CEO Richard) Plepler already publicly eyed the 50% barrier a few months ago." ALSO: Some HBO-connected producers expressed relief with AT&T's plans, with one fearing that HBO could become obsolete like IBM computers.
Posted Tuesday 7/10/18 at 12:09AM EDT
HBO's profits would go down, not up, if it vastly increased its amount of programming
John Stankey, the AT&T executive now charged with overseeing HBO and other Time Warner properties, sounds like he wants HBO to become more like Netflix by producing more programming that can be consumed throughout the day, rather than weekly, according to a report published Sunday. But while Netflix is way more valuable than HBO, HBO's "quality over quantity" model greatly outshines Netflix when it comes to profit. Basically, it sounds like Stankey "wants to both have his cake and eat it," says Felix Salmon. As Salmon explains, Stankey says "that he wants more profits from HBO—that while HBO is currently making money, it’s not making enough. The problem is that if he starts ploughing billions of extra dollars into the HBO budget—the kind of money that would enable the unit to put out more content and get more hours a day—then that will bring the unit’s profits down, not up. Spending more money on premium content will probably bring in some new subscribers, but not nearly enough to cover the cost of the new content. That’s why the old Time Warner never did it. Lowering the cost of a subscription would also bring in new subscribers, while reducing profits and angering many cable operators. HBO was the crown jewel of Time Warner precisely because it was so incredibly profitable, year in and year out. If Stankey wants higher revenue, he can get that through investment. He can get more engagement, too. But he’s probably deluding himself if he thinks that he can hit the trifecta and get higher profits to boot." Salmon adds: "It makes sense for Stankey to want to compete with Netflix, but HBO is simply not the best platform to use to do so. HBO cares about nothing more than its reputation for quality: It will make Veep, but it would never make Fuller House. That obsession has turned it into one of the most valuable brands in the media world. HBO is worth much more than the $4 billion that Disney paid for Lucasfilm, plus the $4 billion Disney paid for Marvel, plus the $7.4 billion Disney paid for Pixar: The New Yorker estimated it was worth more than $30 billion in 2015, and it has surely increased in value since then. "
- The New York Times story on John Stankey's comments didn't tell the full story of AT&T's plans
- Applying Netflix's "more is more" approach would only dilute HBO's exclusive and valuable brand
- It's perplexing: HBO makes billions in profits while Netflix operates at a loss, yet AT&T wants HBO to be more like Netflix in order to become more profitable
- AT&T's plan for HBO is eerily similar to Season 2 of Westworld
- Why AT&T's plan to scale HBO's quality just might work
- HBO's deliberate approach to developing shows has led to numerous Emmys, while Netflix has yet to win an Emmy for best drama, comedy or miniseries
- AT&T's plan sounds as bad as its one for your phone
Posted Friday 6/15/18 at 10:55PM EDT
AT&T executive taking over HBO, TBS, TNT and CNN promises a hands-off approach -- even when it comes to Samantha Bee and Bill Maher
Source: The New York Times
AT&T's John Stankey, 55, is now in charge of the $31 billion conglomerate that comprises Warner Bros. film studios, Turner and HBO as part of the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The company is changing its name to WarnerMedia. Stankey says he'll take a hands-off approach to the creative side of WarnerMedia. When asked about President Trump constantly attacking CNN, Stankey said: "Well, first of all the folks at CNN will continue to do what they do without my involvement or intervention. I think they do that incredibly very well, and they will continue to do that under my leadership just like they did the day before I showed up here." When asked about Bee and Maher -- and her recent Full Frontal controversy -- Stankey said his networks will continue having the same freedom they currently enjoy. "People who are running the creative process are professionals at running the creative process," he says. "I don’t believe that AT&T — the historical AT&T — by its nature brings much capability or intellectual property to do that better." ALSO: AT&T plans to give HBO a bigger budget to compete with Netflix.
Posted Wednesday 6/13/18 at 7:04PM EDT
CNN president Jeff Zucker will stick around through the 2020 presidential election
There was speculation that AT&T's takeover of Time Warner would result in Zucker's ouster, but he signed a new deal several months ago to stay as CNN's president.