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AT&T Chief Talks Video, Licensing Strategy


Randall L. Stephenson, chairman, CEO and president of AT&T, discussed WarnerMedia’s upcoming video platform, content investments at HBO and bringing more licensed content back in-house at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference in Boston yesterday.

“Today, you think about our video product and you immediately go to DIRECTV and its 24 million subscribers, which is a broadcast video distribution network,” Stephenson said. “As we bring WarnerMedia into the fold, our key video product will become the SVOD service that Bob Greenblatt and John Stankey are standing up in WarnerMedia. And I don’t think people yet have an appreciation for what this product will bring to bear. This is obviously going to be centered around HBO, which is the premium of premium content. It’s actually a luxury brand in terms of content. But we’ll pin that and surround it with all of the content library of Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Studios and Turner.”

Stephenson mentioned lucrative Warner Bros. television productions like Friends, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory and noted, “We will be bringing a lot of these media rights, licensing rights back to ourselves to put on our own SVOD product.”

A beta version of the SVOD service is expected in Q4, with a full launch in Q1 2020. “This is going to be a significant opportunity for us to drive video penetration and consumption,” he said. “That product distributed to 170 million points of distribution, our mobility business, our satellite TV and our broadband business, this will become a significant driver of our growth over the next few years. And we think this is in the tens of millions of subscribers that we will have on this. We think the portfolio is that compelling. Then obviously, keeping the satellite, the U-verse customer base in check and stable is really, really important because it’s going to be a major distribution platform. But the video business is going to be driven heavily by the SVOD business.”

Stephenson discussed HBO, which is preparing for the end of its highest-rated show, Game of Thrones, this weekend. “We’ve got a lot of really great content coming online as Game of Thrones winds down,” he said. “And that’s really the key here. We’re going to have to step up our investment. We’re also going to have to, as I mentioned, take a lot of the great content that we own that’s been licensed elsewhere and begin to bring that content back into the fold. And the thing to keep in mind about WarnerMedia, as you look across the entire portfolio, this is a business that spends about $14 billion a year in either original content and some licensing over in the Turner side. So $14 billion a year. And what you’ll see happen over time is a lot more and more of that $14 billion will be directed towards our own product, content to be put on our own product. But that’s a sizable investment, as big as anybody in the industry probably right now, and it’s going to cause some reallocation of capital over time.”

Visit’s Fall Season Grid for all the details on the new and returning shows on the U.S. broadcast networks, and a listing of pickups by studio.

About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on


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