AT&T’s HBO Max deals with cable providers could come down to the wire

AT&T expects the expanded content lineup and mix on HBO Max will help the service attract larger and broader audiences.(WarnerMedia)

AT&T plans to launch HBO Max in May 2020, and the company is still working on deals with traditional pay TV distributors that sell HBO to their video subscribers.

Chief Operating Officer John Stankey (who also serves as CEO of WarnerMedia) suggested that HBO Max deals with pay TV providers could come down to the wire. Speaking today at the UBS Global TMT Conference, he said that the negotiations are “going like they always go.”

“It’s one of those things where there’s an inordinate amount of time spent by the sides at the front end posturing and then as a deadline approaches, a lot of work gets done in a very short period of time right before the deadline,” Stankey said. “I don’t expect these discussions are going to be a whole lot different…”

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Stankey reiterated the benefits AT&T sees for its HBO distributor partners. He said they’ll be able to continue participating financially in a monthly residual model that’s like what they already do with traditional linear and on-demand HBO.

“We’re not doing anything that dilutes further,” Stankey said.

AT&T also said it will be able to bring back consumer data it obtains from HBO Max and bring it back to distributors through Xandr and help their advertising businesses. Stankey added that “no one can possibly look at Max and view it as more being problematic than clickthrough capabilities they’ve already put in their menu for something they don’t get a residual on like Netflix.”

Stankey expects the expanded content lineup and mix on HBO Max will help the service attract larger and broader audiences. He said that increased engagement coupled with bundled-in family plan wireless service will help drive down churn for HBO.

At launch, the company will offer HBO Max to the approximately 10 million HBO subscribers on AT&T distribution platforms, at no additional charge. HBO Now direct-billed users who subscribe directly through will also have access to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max product. AT&T customers on premium video, mobile and broadband services will be offered bundles with HBO Max included at no additional charge.

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