×

WarnerMedia Streaming Platform to Launch With Three Tiers of Service, Emphasis on Movies

WarnerMedia’s nascent streaming service will launch in beta form by the end of 2019 with three tiers of programming options, including an “entry-level” package focused on movies.

AT&T unveiled plans for the unnamed service on Thursday during a presentation in New York to investors to talk up the company’s prospects and plans for paying down the considerable debt that AT&T piled on with its $84.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner. AT&T chairman-CEO emphasized that the company is laser-focused on chopping down its debt load to no more than 2.5 times earnings by the end of 2019.

AT&T said WarnerMedia’s SVOD service will offer consumers three options to subscribe, starting with “entry-level movie-focused package.” It will also feature “a premium service with original programming and blockbuster movies” and a third option “that bundles content from the first two plus an extensive library of WarnerMedia and licensed content.”

John Stankey, WarnerMedia CEO, said the company’s goal was to offer programming with appeal to a wider audience than is typically targeted by WarnerMedia’s HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. units.

“We want to broaden the relevant demographic base,” Stankey told investors. “Our goal now is to open the aperture. We want to pick up more content and get more engagement on digital content.”

The Wall Street analysts in the room pressed Stankey on the fundamental dilemma facing the media giants that are aiming to move into the direct-to-consumer arena — the content licensing revenue that will be lost if the company no longer sells its movies and TV shows to outside buyers in favor of keeping it exclusive to its proprietary streaming platform. Stankey was clear that WarnerMedia will continue to sell programming in international markets for the near term as well as selectively on the domestic front.

“We’re not going to take all of our content and hold it for ourselves,” he said.

At the same time, Stankey hinted that the prevailing trends in the industry will make it harder for Netflix and other companies that don’t have a vast content library at their disposal to keep their services flush with premium programming. WarnerMedia, Disney and others are increasingly focused on building their own direct-to-consumer platforms rather than cashing checks from Netflix, Amazon et al for mammoth licensing deals

“Some incumbents in that space should expect their libraries are going to get a lot thinner,” Stankey said. “Think about what happens in the next 18 to 24 months. We’re going to see a pretty substantial structural shift that is going to occur.

On Monday, WarnerMedia named Brian Bentley, formerly head of marketing for DirecTV and AT&T Entertainment Group, as general manager and exec VP of direct-to-consumer development to oversee the streaming service. There’s much speculation in the industry about who WarnerMedia might tap to oversee programming for the venture, which is expected to also license content from outside providers.

AT&T chairman-CEO Randall Stephenson emphasized that the company is laser-focused on chopping down its debt load to no more than 2.5 times earnings by the end of 2019. The debt as it stands now, at $170 billion, is about 2.8 times earnings.

AT&T is looking at asset sales to speed up the debt reduction process, and one of the non-core items on the table is the 10% stake in Hulu that AT&T inherited from Time Warner. Disney is about to acquire a majority interest in Hulu through its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which means Disney is the likely buyer for AT&T’s interest. (Hulu at present is a joint venture of Disney, Fox, Comcast and AT&T.)

“We are focused on one thing in 2019 and that’s getting to 2.5,” Stephenson told the crowd.

More Biz

  • Huawei Restricted From Using Google's Android

    Huawei Restricted From Using Google's Android as U.S.-China Tensions Mount

    Google has prevented controversial Chinese tech firm Huawei from accessing the latest versions of the Android mobile phone operating system. The move follows U.S. government attempts to blacklist the Chinese firm. “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” Google sources told news agencies Sunday. “Huawei will only be able to use the [...]

  • ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired

    ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired by Showtime for U.S.

    Polygram Entertainment, Universal Music Group’s film and television division, along with Capitol Music Group, Motown Records and Fulwell 73 announced today that “Hitville: The Making of Motown” has been acquired by Showtime for release in North America with plans for a fall premiere, and Altitude for theatrical release in the UK and Ireland. The feature-length [...]

  • Sammy Shore Dead: Comedy Store Co-Founder

    Sammy Shore, Co-Founder of The Comedy Store, Dies at 92

    Sammy Shore, the well-known stand-up comedian who co-founded The Comedy Store in Hollywood, died in Las Vegas, Nev. from natural causes. He was 92. Shore founded The Comedy Store with writing partner Rudy Deluca on April 7, 1972. His ex-wife, Mitzi Shore, took ownership of the club in the divorce settlement, and the venue went [...]

  • Outlander Season 4 Finale

    What CBS' Pursuit of Starz Means for CBS, Lionsgate

    CBS’ effort to buy pay TV service Starz from Lionsgate seems on the surface to be a head scratcher. CBS has told Wall Street for years that it has prospered because it brings only two must-have services to the table in negotiations with MVPDs, allowing the Eye to drive a hard bargain. Why would CBS [...]

  • Dana Brunetti

    Dana Brunetti Sues to Block Season 2 of 'Manhunt'

    Producer Dana Brunetti filed suit on Friday seeking to block the second season of the anthology series “Manhunt,” which is set to dramatize the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Brunetti sued Lionsgate, the production company, as well as Discovery Communications and Charter Communications. Brunetti, the producer of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and many other [...]

  • PledgeMusic Sends Message to Artists, Offers

    PledgeMusic Sends Message to Artists, Offers Data From Platform

    PledgeMusic, the direct-to-fan marketplace that is headed into administration (the British equivalent of bankruptcy), today posted a note to artists and fans, offering the ability for artists to download their data from the platform. A source tells Variety that more information will be coming once an administrator is named — when that happens, at some [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content