Commentary

Real-Life Game Of Thrones As AT&T Dragon Absorbs Time Warner

It is a peculiar talent of journalists to come up with catchy metaphors for the struggles of titanic corporations when one is in the process of absorbing another.

So, it is irresistible to take “Game of Thrones” and apply that title to the comings and goings of top executives at the new WarnerMedia in the wake of the takeover of Time Warner by AT&T.

Announced nine months ago, the deal finally cleared a Justice Department hurdle last Tuesday when a federal appeals court rejected the government’s attempt to prevent the deal from closing.

In the days that followed, the churning of top executives got underway, starting with HBO's chairman and CEO, Richard Plepler. Plepler, 59, spent the better part of his career at HBO, but resigned -- apparently to avoid having to work under HBO's new management. Hence the “Game of Thrones” metaphor.

Next was David Levy, known to one and all in the TV business as the exuberant president of Turner. In that position, he has overseen TNT, TBS, TruTV, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies and Adult Swim since 2013.

He also oversees -- or oversaw -- ad sales strategies and operations, affiliate sales, program acquisitions, marketing promotion, interactive TV and technology business development for those networks, plus CNN and HLN ad sales and affiliate sales, and Turner Sports.

Such is the price of taking over a company. Losing a guy like Levy seems like a big loss. He had come up through the company over a period of more than 30 years, according to reports on Friday. Plepler was at HBO for 27 years.

At the same time that the news broke last week that the court ruling would now clear the way for AT&T to take over, news began circulating that the new parent company was eyeing Bob Greenblatt to take over all of the new company's television operations.

Greenblatt was most recently chairman of NBC Universal Television Group where, among other things, he oversaw NBC prime-time programming. He had a successful run at NBCU. But apparently, the new owner of Time Warner was not eyeing either Levy or Plepler for the top job, and they decided to resign.

In the wake of the Plepler and Levy news that broke on Friday, additional stories appeared in which other senior executives were urged to stay the course and not jump ship quite yet. Personal experience teaches that some of these execs might now be eligible for promotions and/or raises if they stay, unless AT&T ultimately wishes to clean house.

It is difficult to comprehend the strategy of that. By all appearances, Plepler and Levy were successful executives. HBO in particular was a juggernaut in the Plepler era. Retaining most of the teams that made HBO and Turner tick would seem to be the smart way to proceed.

The TV Blog is not certain what this all teaches us, if anything -- other than the TV times they are a-changing. But we already knew that.

1 comment about "Real-Life Game Of Thrones As AT&T Dragon Absorbs Time Warner".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 5, 2019 at 7:28 a.m.

    I wonder how long it will be before AT&T tries to sell in-program breaks on its newly acquired cable channels on an "addressable TV" basis with much higher CPMs and revenue gains being its primary incentive? This will greatly increase its now limited inventory of available GRPs to sell. But will time buyers be willing to pay double the CPMs for the same viewers they now get  at bargain basement rates? That's the real question.

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