AT&T hints at bundled direct-to-consumer product for HBO, Turner and Warner

Game of Thrones - Emilia Clarke. Image courtesy of HBO
HBO Now has grown thanks to original series like "Game of Thrones." (HBO)

AT&T owns a significant SVOD product in HBO Now, with its $15-per-month price point and more than 5 million subscribers. But the company may be looking at bundling it with other direct-to-consumer products.

John Stankey, head of WarnerMedia, gave that impression during a discussion at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media and Entertainment conference this week. He praised HBO’s reputation for having high quality, highly engaging scripted content, documentaries, some sports and a great library of movies, but cautioned that HBO Now in and of itself isn't enough in a scaled direct-to-consumer construct.

“There needs to be other assets around that but starting with something like that that’s so unique that can have such high levels of engagement from a customer and making sure that we’re maximizing that asset. So, I mean I’m not happy that maybe only 40% of households engage on HBO. I mean, I aspire that would be much greater than that,” Stankey said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

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He hinted at bundling other WarnerMedia brands, like Turner and Warner Bros., around HBO in a scalable direct-to-consumer platform.

“It needs to allow for customer to assemble the content in a way that makes sense for them and their household. But it clearly needs to have brand distinction as a customer navigates through different types of content and different levels of engagement,” Stankey said.

RELATED: Deeper Dive—AT&T has extra SVOD gems in Crunchyroll and VRV

As it stands right now, besides its virtual MVPD DirecTV Now and the newly launched skinny streaming bundle Watch TV, AT&T has a lot of SVOD assets. The company owns the upcoming B/R Live and DC Universe, FilmStruck, Boomerang and DramaFever. Through Otter Media, it also owns streaming video brands including Crunchyroll and VRV.

It’s unclear how some or all of those brands might fit into a bundled direct-to-consumer offer, but the strategy AT&T hinted at is similar to what Disney said it could do following its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said last month that Disney doesn’t want to go to market with an aggregation play that replicates the multichannel environment, because the company feels consumers are more interested in assembling their own makeshift bundles of streaming services.

But he did say there could be an opportunity to package together—from a pricing perspective—Hulu, ESPN+ and the upcoming Disney-branded streaming service.

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