Following a federal judge’s approval of the merger between telecom giants AT&T and Time Warner, consumers could see higher prices, but could also benefit from more streaming options as other companies try to compete. (June 13)
AT&T has officially begun transforming the former Time Warner operations into an entertainment enterprise that fits with the telecom giant’s vision.
The telecom company had already incorporated the entertainment and news properties – HBO, the Warner Bros. studios, and Turner networks such as CNN and TBS – into a new entity within AT&T called WarnerMedia.
With last week’s U.S. Court of Appeals denial of the DOJ’s appeal of merger – and department’s declaration it would no longer contest the deal – AT&T has begun to make moves to revamp the operation and merge the two companies à la Comcast and NBCUniversal.
WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey on Monday named former NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt as the new chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment. Greenblatt, who helped manage NBCUniversal after Comcast’s acquisition begun in 2009, will oversee HBO and Turner’s channels TNT, TBS and truTV.
His guidance will be vital to achieving Stankey’s goal of increased content production at HBO. Also in Greenblatt’s purview is the company’s direct-to-consumer business, which will need more content for the new subscription service AT&T plans to launch later this year – one that will face the planned Disney+ streaming service as a competitor.
Also announced: CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker will now be chairman of WarnerMedia News & Sports, which includes CNN and the company’s sports content.
Additionally, Kevin Tsujihara, who remains as chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. studios, will also direct a new global kids and young adults business including Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, and oversee Otter Media and Turner Classic Movies. And Turner International president Gerhard Zeiler has been promoted to WarnerMedia’s chief revenue officer and will handle its consolidated advertising sales efforts.
These appointments follow the departures last week of longtime HBO CEO Richard Pepler and Turner president David Levy.
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Not only will there be new executive faces on board, but also new initiatives to boost CNN’s digital operations. This is a key strategy for WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, who plans to invest in product development and data analytics to increase CNN’s digital delivery and engagement, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.
CNN is already a digital leader online, hitting 120 million average monthly unique viewers in 2018, according to Comscore, 30 million ahead of Fox News and The New York Times online. But Stankey, who announced the executive appointments in a press release Monday, wants CNN’s apps to better deliver customized news and content and to get its mobile consumers to spend about 10 minutes daily with CNN’s apps, the Journal reported.
Using AT&T advertising technology, Stankey hopes to allow advertisers to better target viewers with relevant advertising, similar to how Facebook and Google operate, the Journal reported.
Another sign that AT&T’s focused on its own services: the company is reportedly in talks with the Walt Disney Co. to sell its 10 percent stake in the streaming service Hulu, Variety reported. Disney (ABC) owns its original 30 percent stake in Hulu plus the 30 percent stake it got amid the Fox assets it paid $71 billion for last year. Comcast (NBCUniversal) owns the other 30 percent of Hulu.
“The potential deal makes sense for AT&T, which plans on launching its own streaming service in the second half of this year. We note that an actual deal could fail to materialize,” wrote CFRA Research analyst Keith Snyder in a note to investors Thursday.
He estimated the price tag for AT&T’s stake as $930 million, based on Hulu’s recent valuation of $9.3 billion.
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Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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