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Warner Media Exec John Stankey On Changes At HBO: “Its Going To Be A Tough Year”

AT&T executive-turned-head of Warner Media John Stankey spoke at a town hall in New York and addressed the changes to come for HBO after the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

John Stankey AT&T

During the town hall, which also included HBO chief executive Richard Plepler, Stankey said that they wont interfere too much with the premium cabler considering its prestige, according to the New York Times. However, he did say that there would be some changes — or from the sound of it, growing pains.

“Its going to be a tough year,” said Stankey. “Its going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.”

Although Stankey didnt 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.

Stankey said he wanted HBO to increase subscribers and the number of hours viewers watch shows as well as churn out more content — much like their streaming brethren.

“We need hours a day,” he said. “Its not hours a week, and its not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in peoples hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”

HBO has 40 million subscribers stateside and 143 million worldwide, but Stankey insists that it wasnt enough. He said that they have “to move beyond 35 to 40 percent penetration to have this become a much more common product.”

Plepler talked about HBOs programming and their “bespoke culture” with prize shows like Big Little Lies and the critically acclaimed Barry and Insecure. Stankey wants to even further that at HBO and try something new. when it comes to content. Plepler asked if there would be more investment for the content to which Stankey said that there would be “stepped-up investment” adding that the company needed to make money. Plepler mentions that HBO was profitable and Stankey said that its “just not enough.”

One thing that Stankey assured was job security for employees as a result of the merger.

“The good news for many of you in this organization is that its not Fox or Disney sitting up on this stage now,” said Stankey. “Theres virtually no duplication with AT&T in what we do.”

But he reiterated the hard work ahead because of the changes. “I suspect if were in a situation where were going to be investing heavier, that means that theres going to be more work for all of you to do — and youre going to be working a little bit harder,” he said.

He then used a unique metaphor in regards to the changes. “You will work very hard, and this next year will — my wife hates it when I say this — feel like childbirth… Youll look back on it and be very fond of it, but its not going to feel great while youre in the middle of it. She says, What do you know about this? I just observe, Honey. We love our kids.'”

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