AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson Talks ‘Associates’ Rights, HBO vs. Netflix, DirecTV’s New Bundles

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Investing in additional programming for HBO will likely be a focus for WarnerMedia because it prepares to launch its direct-to-consumer subscription platform by the top of subsequent 12 months, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson told investors Tuesday. And he weighed in on the flap over Netflix and “Friends” streaming rights, asserting that WarnerMedia has retained the ability to carry the durable sitcom on its service starting in 2020.

During a Q&A at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference, Stephenson said the original programming offering for the unnamed service will largely revolve around HBO at the outset. Stephenson said the goal is for HBO to deliver a steadier stream of original series on a year-round basis.

But Stephenson cautioned that AT&T does not want HBO to “become another Netflix” with an $11 billion (and growing) annual tab for content. He called Netflix “an impressive warehouse” of shows but said the WarnerMedia offering would be a more curated effort that may eventually encompass programming from “third-party” producers.

Stephenson addressed the rumors earlier this week about the prospect of reruns of Warner Bros. TV’s durable comedy “Friends” leaving the Netflix platform as of Jan. 1 (a social media tempest sparked by an errant tweet from Netflix). Stephenson assured that Netflix has non-exclusive streaming rights to the show for at least another year, but that WarnerMedia is sure to put “Friends” on its service in 2020. “It’s the kind of content we would definitely want to have on our platform,” Stephenson said, even on a non-exclusive basis.

More to come


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