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AT&T's SVoD Services Will Be Pay-TV Friendly

Jeff Baumgartner
5/16/2019

AT&T's WarnerMedia unit will take direct aim at consumers with a coming set of OTT-delivered subscription VoD services, but pay-TV providers will also play an important role in their distribution.

The expectation is that MVPDs such as Comcast will be "an important partner to all of this," Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and CEO, said Tuesday at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications event in Boston. Under the current plan, a Comcast subscriber that takes HBO would also "get this [SVoD] capability," he said.

WarnerMedia hasn't announced which MVPDs will jump on board, but AT&T's own stable of video and mobile services will most certainly serve as key distribution points for the new SVoDs. Stephenson said those OTT services would have about 170 million points of distribution via AT&T's own mix of mobile, broadband and satellite TV offerings.

AT&T still has not pinpointed a launch date or pricing for its coming trio of SVoD services, but Stephenson reiterated that it would "center around HBO" and be appended and surrounded by content from Warner Bros. and Turner. For its part, Warner Bros. will contribute both new and catalog theatricals as well as TV shows and series. "It's a TV production machine," Stephenson said, noting that the studio is putting out more than 70 shows this year alone.

Stephenson said the current plan is to launch those SVoD services in beta form in Q4 2019 and follow with a full-scale launch in Q1 2019.

"This is going to be a significant opportunity for use to drive video penetration and consumption," he said. Keeping the subscriber bases of the company's pay-TV services stable will remain important, "but the video business will be driven heavily by the SVoD service."

AT&T will have plenty of competitive company amid the planned November 12 launch of Disney+, which The Mouse expects to pull down 60 million to 90 million subs worldwide by the end of its fiscal 2024.

Stephenson isn't being as precise in his subscriber predictions for WarnerMedia's new SVoDs, but sees them raking in "tens of millions of subscribers… We think the [content] portfolio is that compelling."

He also noted that AT&T/WarnerMedia will eventually pull back content license rights for its own SVoD products.

This didn't come up during Stephenson's talk, but the company might also try to add value to its OTT offerings by debuting new episodes of some popular shows on the SVoD platform before they air on regular TV, according to The Information. One such new service is tentatively called HBO Max, the report said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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