AT&T CEO: Cutting ‘Game of Thrones’ episodes to 20 minutes would improve mobile experience

Game of Thrones Season 7 (HBO)
Like the many extras roaming the landscape on "Game of Thrones," the show's episodes are in danger of being chopped up. (HBO)

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said chopping down “Game of Thrones” episodes to 20 minutes would make them easier to consume on mobile.

According to Variety, Stephenson suggested during a JPMorgan investor conference that the “Game of Thrones” current average runtime of 60 minutes is likely not ideal for watching on mobile devices, although he also admitted that HBO CEO Richard Plepler would likely panic at the idea of editing down episodes of HBO’s popular drama.

Stephenson said AT&T and Time Warner will have the opportunity to uniquely curate content for mobile and create new opportunities around Warner Bros. content such as ad-supported video services.

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“…There are so many opportunities then to drive value back into your distribution business by uniquely curating content and so forth,” said Stephenson, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

Stephenson’s consideration of how HBO content would be best delivered over mobile networks is especially relevant as AT&T and Time Warner pursue their proposed $85 billion merger, which would pair one of the largest media companies with the service provider that owns DirecTV and one of the country’s largest mobile networks.

RELATED: AT&T, Time Warner offer merger details to quell senators' concerns

As the deal has faced scrutiny from lawmakers and lobbyists, AT&T and Time Warner have laid out potential consumer benefits from the deal, including increased access to shorter-form content.

“AT&T and Time Warner have both encountered such friction as they have sought to bring innovations to market. That friction has kept consumers from getting the full suite of innovative features that they want,” the companies wrote.

Specific video-related innovations that AT&T and Time Warner see possible post-merger include:

  • Short-form programming optimized for presentation on mobile devices
  • Interactive and personalized methods of viewing sports and other live events
  • More relevant advertising in ad-supported video services
  • Integrations of professionally produced content with virtual reality or augmented reality services
  • Services that encourage consumers to combine professionally produced content with their own creative content and share the results on social media
  • Greater choice, convenience, and value in programming bundles

AT&T and Time Warner will likely have to overcome an antitrust review by the Department of Justice, but the companies will apparently be able to skip an FCC review. Even FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has expressed that it is likely none of his agency’s business. Pai told the Wall Street Journal that, since the companies put together the deal so that no FCC licenses would need to be transferred, the FCC won’t be involved.

RELATED: HBO Now passes 2M subscribers amid strong quarter for Time Warner

As Stephenson ponders alternative means for delivering HBO content to consumers, HBO’s standalone service HBO Now has been busy amassing subscribers who want access to the network’s programming outside of the traditional pay-TV ecosystem.

In February, HBO announced that HBO Now had attracted more than 2 million subscribers.

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