A story by the Financial Times on Wednesday said that internal discussions of such a sale had been held within AT&T but that no formal talks with potential buyers had been initiated. The report said AT&T was eager to keep the discussions quiet in order to prevent any more HBO employees from jumping ship, given the departures of longtime HBO boss Richard Plepler and president and chief revenue officer Simon Sutton.
But Stankey called the report “completely baseless and inaccurate.”
“We normally do not comment on speculation, but when a news outlet is advised that their reporting is factually incorrect and report it anyway, we feel compelled to set the record straight,” he said in a statement. “There is no truth whatsoever to the Financial Times’ story saying AT&T is or has considered selling HBO Europe. It’s completely baseless and inaccurate. HBO Europe is a valuable asset for our growth plans in Europe.”
The Financial Times said AT&T had declined a request for comment on its story. The report said that an AT&T executive close to Stankey and CEO Randall Stephenson had denied talk of a sale of HBO Europe, but that “several current and former senior executives” had confirmed the discussions. Selling off HBO’s venerable European operations would go toward easing AT&T’s $170 billion debt load, the report said.
HBO Europe operates across in more than a dozen countries across the continent. In addition to distributing its U.S.-made shows and some from other networks, it has moved into producing local content for its European services.
It has also moved into streaming, with platforms such as HBO España in Spain, which offers HBO shows such as “Game of Thrones” as well as content from Disney and Nickelodeon. The company says it has about 10 millions subscribers in Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Poland.