AT&T to overhaul HBO, add more original content: report

AT&T is planning changes for cable giant HBO after the recent approval of AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, according to a report Monday.

The New York Times obtained audio of a town hall meeting between AT&T executive John Stankey, who will oversee HBO’s operations as part of the newly formed WarnerMedia division, and 150 employees. At the meeting, Stankey outlined his plans to make HBO more competitive amid tough challenges from the streaming services of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

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

A federal judge approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger last month despite a challenge from the U.S. Justice Department, which argued the move would hurt the competitive media landscape and harm consumers over the long term. AT&T executives had previously “pledged to take a hands-off approach” to HBO, according to the Times.

HBO is expected to boost production of original content as part of a bid to lure new subscribers and increase the amount of time viewers spend on the network, according to the Times report. Stankey did not mention Netflix or any other streaming service by name during the meeting.

“We need hours a day,” Stankey said, referring to viewer engagement with HBO. “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.”

HBO has won dozens of Emmy awards in recent years, airing commercially and critically successful programs such as “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld.” However, Netflix has garnered an increasing share of the media marketplace, with more than 125 million paid subscribers globally.

Netflix is expected to spend more than $13 billion on original content in 2018 alone, according to the Economist.