AT&T's Stankey Talks HBO Max MVPD Negotiations, Argues Max's Advantages Over Disney+

AT&T COO and WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey made cases for why the upcoming HBO Max streaming service will be a good deal for traditional pay-TV distributors, as well as attract more consumers than Disney+, during a presentation this morning at the UBS Global TMT Conference.  

Stankey, who filled in for Randall Stephenson because the AT&T CEO was ill, said that negotiations with cable and satellite distributors about HBO Max, set to launch in May 2020, are “going like they always go.”

Meaning “an inordinate amount of time” spent “posturing” by both sides at the front end, “then, as a deadline approaches, a lot of work gets done in a very short period of time right before the deadline,” he summed up.

However, Stankey argued that the new streamer offers several benefits for distribution partners, starting with a continuation of the monthly residual financial model used for HBO Now and traditional linear television.

“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,” he asserted.

AT&T is also promising MVPDs consumer data, through its Xandr advertising platform, to help them enhance their advertising offerings.

Stankey offered Disney faint praise by saying that Disney+ is a “good product,” and that Disney did a “nice job” on it.

But he went on to maintain that the new Disney offering’s strongest appeal is to the “youth of the family,” and that its ability to “satisfy the other members of the family” is “not that deep.”

“There’s stuff that’s interesting to adults in the offer and there’s stuff that’s probably interesting to your 20-something and 30-something-year-old members of your family. But it’s not all that deep in that regard,” he added.

HBO Max, in contrast, “is a product that appeals to the entire family and the family wireless plan,” Stankey declared. “It’s something that every member of the family looks at and says, ‘That has something in it for me… I see myself in that offering.’”

Stankey also asserted that Disney+, currently charging $6.99 per month on a standalone basis, has "about half the content at about half the price" of HBO Max's $15. “[HBO Max is] twice the content of what we currently have [on traditional HBO] at the same price."

Later in the day, AT&T’s WarnerMedia and its ad-tech unit, Xandr, announced that they will be holding a joint Upfront presentation to pitch HBO Max, among other advertising opportunities, on May 13, 2020.  

In addition, Xandr revealed that it's now actively selling what appears to be a first: video-format “pause ads” for linear TV, as well as on-demand services.

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