×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

AT&T CEO: ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes May Be Better Cut Down to 20 Minutes for Mobile

Telco wants to curate Time Warner content for ad-supported mobile consumption

Episodes of HBO’s premiere original series “Game of Thrones” may be better in a mobile experience if they were hacked down to 20 minutes apiece, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

“I’ll cause [HBO CEO Richard] Plepler to panic,” Stephenson said, speaking Tuesday morning at J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. But “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.”

Stephenson was underscoring his point that AT&T — which is in the midst of closing its $85 billion deal for Time Warner — sees a tremendous opportunity to increase the revenue yield on mobile distribution of the media conglomerate’s entertainment assets. And his suggestion of truncating “GOT” episodes also provide a glimpse into how Time Warner may evolve under AT&T’s stewardship.

For AT&T, the No. 1 priority for 2017 is to get the Time Warner deal closed, Stephenson said. “We’re spending most of our waking hours on getting that done,” he said. The acquisition is pending approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2015, the telco charged into the entertainment space with its DirecTV deal. Now, with Time Warner, AT&T has “the ability… to curate Time Warner content uniquely for a mobile environment,” the exec said.

Stephenson added that AT&T has no intentions of piping Time Warner content exclusively to the telco’s wireless and broadband subscriber base (which would also raise regulatory alarm bells). “You’re not going to take ‘Game of Thrones’ and make it available only to AT&T customers. That’s crazy. That would destroy the value,” he said.

Rather, AT&T is eager to develop an ad-supported infrastructure around Turner and Warner Bros. content and expand mobile distribution for HBO.

According to Stephenson, AT&T and DirecTV deliver 250 billion ad impressions per year, while Time Warner in total serves up 750 billion. AT&T is able to monetize that inventory at a far higher rate — two to three times higher — than traditional media companies, because it has direct access to user behavioral data, Stephenson said.

“We think we can drive the yields on [Time Warner’s] media and entertainment business up significantly,” said Stephenson, noting that the combo of AT&T, DirecTV, and Time Warner will create an entity “bordering on 1 trillion impressions” annually.

In addition, AT&T is exploring opportunities to cross-promote Warner Bros. franchises likes DC Comics and Turner’s Boomerang cartoons in the telco’s stores and via pay TV, Stephenson said.

Stephenson also addressed the FCC’s vote last week to reverse the Obama-era classification of broadband service under Title II under chairman Ajit Pai. He said the agency is heading toward “a more rational place.”

“The FCC was headed down a path with Title II of hyper-regulation of every facet of broadband industry,” the AT&T chief said.

AT&T supports network neutrality principles of open, nondiscriminatory access to internet networks, Stephenson said. But, he said, there’s a better way to enact those than using a “blunt hammer from 1934” – referring to Title II, originally adopted to regulate the telephone industry. Congress needs to move forward on legislation that sets net neutrality rules for the industry, he said.

Another big strategic priority for AT&T in the year ahead is getting 5G wireless broadband from the initial testing phases into commercial deployment, Stephenson said. Initially, 5G will be used to deliver fixed-wireless broadband given that 5G-compatible handsets aren’t expected until 2019.

Next-generation 5G technology “is a way to leapfrog deployment of gigabit into the home and the business,” Stephenson said.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Barron HiltonBarron Hilton 1990

    Famed Hotelier Barron Hilton Dies at 91

    Barron Hilton, a famed hotelier who helped expand the Hilton Hotels empire and a founding owner of the Chargers NFL football team, has died, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced. He was 91. “Today the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats. Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist. [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Music Chief Rob Stringer on Sustaining Growth and Recovering From the 'Dark Times'

    The Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, now in its 28th year, gives top executives at major companies the opportunity to make their case to investors — and the Goldman analysts the opportunity to keep things on the up and up. While the analysts don’t necessarily grill the executives, they don’t lob softball questions either. That was [...]

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content