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. However, now that AT&T effectively owns the company through their recent acquisition of WarnerMedia, significant changes are coming to HBO's content strategy.
"We need more hours of engagement in a day", he said.
According to a recording of the town hall obtained by The New York Times, Stankey emphasized the need to expand both in content and subscribers, without losing the identity of the network that has always been associated with quality. "It's going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit".
"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.
While HBO's streaming service, HBO Now, is gaining momentum and is expected to reach 7 million subscribers by the end of the year, it doesn't sound like that's enough for Stankey.
While Richard Plepler, HBO's CEO noted that he still believes that "more isn't better, only better is better", he also conceded that the network will "need a lot more to be even better". Thankfully for HBO fans, AT&T wants to make HBO more like Netflix. "It's not hours a week, and it's not hours a month", he said. Why do we need other properties, have interesting ways for customers to navigate and get to them easily? "You are competing with devices that sit in people's hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes". These are important because they could get more information from customers that allows them to profit through alternate methods of advertising, he explained.
"Yes, you do", Mr. Stankey said.
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HBO now spends about $2 billion a year on content, much of it critically acclaimed.
"We do that", Plepler reportedly responded.
I've said, 'More is not better, only better is better, ' because that was the hand we had. As CNET notes, the channel has spent around $2 billion per year for the past three years on programming.
Everything-including, possibly, advertising. HBO has been commercial-free since it launched, and while it is unlikely to add commercials to its existing service, Stankey suggested that ads could have a place on the service in the future.
Without ever referring to Netflix, which now dominates original content in the eyes of consumers, Stankey was adamant about shifting HBO's way of doing things during the town hall.
Stankey wants HBO to make more money and significantly increase the number of subscribers in the USA and worldwide.