AT&T Plans Massive ‘Overhaul’ Of HBO Services

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After owning the television network giant for less than a month, it appears that AT&T is already planning a massive overhaul of the services offered by HBO, with goals of aiming their content more toward smartphone users.

AT&T’s main goal through this is to boost revenue both in advertising and subscriptions, even if that means doing away with HBO’s well-worn strategy of curating a fairly low number of shows that produce high-quality content.

Audio of the meeting was obtained by The New York Times, who published their report which detailed how John Stankey, an AT&T executive who is now CEO of the company’s WarnerMedia division, formed after last month’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc., described his vision in an hour-long “town hall meeting” with 150 employees.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” Stankey said, according to the Times article. “It’s going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.”

The talk was reportedly held at HBO headquarters in New York City and helmed by CEO Richard Pleper. The executives involved acknowledged the risk they were taking to programming quality overall but maintained that they would be working with whatever they had in their capacities to attempt to ensure that quality would not be inhibited by the increase in content production under the network’s new owners.

HBO must compete with smartphones for people’s attention. We need hours a day,” Mr. Stankey said, referring to the time viewers spend watching HBO programs. “It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”

CEO of AT&T DirecTV Studio John Stankey, left, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) attend the grand opening of the AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment & Policy on January 18, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Featured image credit: Larry FrenchGetty Images For AT&T

On top of this, the CEO added that “I want more hours of engagement. Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow’s world.”

Despite was seems like a drastic recent change, reports have existed in regards to a shift in HBO programming more than a year before the new ownership was cemented, with the content creator hoping to expand in some forms beyond its finely curated one night a week programming with hour-long episodes.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson even said at a telecommunications conference that people should “think about things like Game of Thrones. In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.” Instead of showing full-length episodes on all devices, it might be best to “curate the content uniquely for a mobile environment.”

Only time will tell what changes the high-profile merger will actually bring about to the network, but viewers can most definitely expect some significant differences as well as new additions.