AT&T wants to overhaul HBO, says it isn’t profitable enough

Jeffrey Wright and Shannon Woodward on the second season of HBO's'Westworld

Jeffrey Wright and Shannon Woodward on the second season of HBO's'Westworld

Although Stankey didn't mention streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, there were hints that he wanted to pave a road to be more of a streaming giant considering the ever-changing landscape of media, television and how audiences consume content.

"As I step back and think about what's unique about the brand and where it needs to go, there's got to be a little more depth to it, there's got to be more frequent engagement", Mr. Stankey said.

"It's not hours a week, and it's not hours a month", Stankey said.

The talk, held at HBO headquarters in New York City, was hosted by HBO CEO Richard Plepler.

"We've got to make money at the end of the day, right?" After seeing its parent company, Time Warner, acquired by AT&T last month for $85.4 billion, HBO now finds a new face at the head of the table, one that's pushing the network away from its legacy of careful, generous investment in original content.

"We do that", Mr. Plepler responded, to scattered applause. It's this that could be an essential ingredient in Stankey's vision for transforming HBO.

Your HBO might soon be a little different.

"Why are more hours of engagement important?" Stankey said that HBO needs to attract more subscribers and convince subscribers to spend more time watching HBO, the Times report said.

"The good news for many of you in this organization is that it's not Fox or Disney sitting up on this stage now", said Stankey. Stankey suggested that the goal is to "become a much more common product", which will require moving "beyond 35-to-40% penetration".

Plepler said that HBO's current strategy "is not going to be sustainable going forward".

"I've said, 'More is not better, only better is better, ' because that was the hand we had", Plepler said. "I've switched that, now that you're here, to: 'More isn't better, only better is better-but we need a lot more to be even better'".

How will AT&T produce more shows without reducing quality? Stankey said that AT&T and HBO will have to "figure [that] out". According to The New York Times, which obtained a recording of the meeting, he wants HBO to create more content and broaden beyond its core Sunday night lineup. "We now need to figure out how to expand the aperture of it without losing the quality".

Stankey reiterated that the first year under AT&T's ownership could be tough for HBO employees. "I suspect if we're in a situation where we're going to be investing heavier, that means that there's going to be more work for all of you to do-and you're going to be working a little bit harder", he said.

It's not Netflix, it's HBO, but HBO, it seems, is about to start looking a lot like Netflix. "You'll look back on it and be very fond of it, but it's not going to feel great while you're in the middle of it".

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