If it ain't broke, fix it anyway — AT&T to HBO

Lewis Collier
July 11, 2018

"As I step back and think about what's unique about the brand and where it needs to go, there's got to be a little more depth to it, there's got to be more frequent engagement", Mr. Stankey said. "It's going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit". This has taken the form of a sequence of "town halls" and the New York Times managed to get hold of a recording of the HBO one.

Having completed its mega-acquisition of Time Warner just weeks ago, AT&T has sent the new head of its entertainment group, John Stankey, on a tour of its of its conquered territories, to leave them in no doubt there's a new sheriff in town. Stankey chatted with HBO CEO Richard Plepler during the meeting, saying that the network needed to up its subscriber base and produce more content, with the word "broader" popping up a number of times. "We need hours a day", Stankey said of how often viewers should be watching HBO. "It's not hours a week, and it's not hours a month".

Up until this moment, HBO has prided itself on being a "quality over quantity" network, garnering more Primetime Emmy Awards than its competitions in the past 16 years.

Stankey said "hours a day" of engagement will be HBO's new focus with their content, rather than "hours a week" or "hours a month". "We now need to figure out how to expand the aperture of it without losing the quality".

The long $85 billion takeover of Time Warner by telecommunications giant AT&T means that HBO, the home of hit shows such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Veep, is now part of AT&T's huge media empire.

Is HBO about to become more like Netflix? "You are competing with devices that sit in people's hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes".

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HBO has made almost $6 billion in profit over the past three years, while devoting more than $2 billion a year to programming, the article said.

Plepler, who hosted the talk, asked Stankey how much money AT&T would invest.

Plepler said that HBO's current strategy "is not going to be sustainable going forward".

"The good news for many of you in this organization is that it's not Fox or Disney sitting up on this stage now", said Stankey. "I've switched that, now that you're here, to: 'More isn't better, only better is better-but we need a lot more to be even better'".

Does Stankey want to turn HBO into Netflix? "You will work very hard, and this next year will - my wife hates it when I say this - feel like childbirth", he said.

Stankey assured everyone in attendance that nobody will lose their jobs, but that they'll work harder than ever, especially in the first year. But, he added, "it's not going to feel great while you're in the middle of it".

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