The Big AT&T Plan Includes Short 'Thrones'

The half hour sitcom and the hour-long cop show are lingering, constraining remnants of those old days, when people got dirty at work, wore wrist watches and wrote in cursive.

So, a long time ago.

Movies and series are no longer constrained by arbitrary time frames that fit into these things called “TV schedules.”

The most acclaimed content we watch on TV --or whatever--comes in all shapes. Video’s great achievements, though, have basically gotten longer, while the most popular devices have gotten smaller. Now traveling between hither and yon, we watch stuff.

Shorter would be handy.

That’s what’s going to happen, too.

At the annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference this week, AT&T’s CEO salivated at the prospect of taking those six seasons of of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and splicing them into smaller, mobile-friendly units. Bite-sized, as they say. Maybe 20 minutes at a time.

“We now have the ability, and we are actually putting in place plans now, to begin curating Time Warner content uniquely for a mobile environment,” said AT&T boss Randall Stephenson, anticipating the completion of its $85.4 billion acquisition of HBO parent Time Warner. “You can think of all the great franchises in Time Warner and what we will be able to do. . . “

Yes we can.  AT&T can do what Verizon so far has not: Create a mobile-first video platform that gains some traction, unlike Go90, the bewildering mobile service it launched in 2015 with little fanfare (which seems to have been a mistake because it still has very few fans to speak of).  

Consumer press has been absent; the trade press has been brutal. “WTF Is Verizon Doing With Its Streaming App Go90” TechCrunch asked bluntly last September. In January, Verizon laid off 155 Go90ers in a move it said might have looked bad but was a disguised good thing as it streamlines, blah, blah blah.  (It could just be that Go90, which gets its name from the requirement for users to turn their phones 90 degrees to watch horizontally may have missed the memo. The Mary Meeker-endorsed  trend is toward watching vertically. )

AT&T will have to face that vertical-horizontal test with HBO and all the other familiar Time Wariner product it can cut into pieces. But it will arrive on the scene with a big package of programs, and the potent DirecTV and DirecTV Now promotional platform.

The idea of short, I’d say, is going to be more potent than as big media and big money meet big ideas. YouTube, which knows short all right, is now planning its own stack of commercially supported programs that undoubtedly will have a mobile-first spin and other more traditional publishers are also debuting their own in-house series. Five years from now, or maybe just one or two, it’s likely that not only will viewers be able to watch on any device; they’ll also be able to choose the length that fits for the time they've got.

Next story loading loading..