AT&T plans to overhaul HBO with a focus on quantity over quality

Polycount

TS Evangelist
Staff member

It seems HBO is in for a rough time following AT&T's purchase of parent company Warner Media.

Last year, before the purchase had gone through, AT&T hinted that they might be making some changes to the way HBO's content works.

Indeed, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson went so far as to suggest that episodes of Game of Thrones might be cut down to 20 minutes, noting that "a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience" for mobile users.

While that specific change idea seems to have died off, the goal behind it -- making major changes to HBO's business model -- will live on. John Stankey, an AT&T executive chosen to lead the ISP's new Warner Media division, recently held a meeting with roughly 150 employees where he discussed some of the changes coming to HBO.

During the meeting, Stankey and HBO boss Richard Plepler talked about the former's desire to produce more shows, even if it leads to poorer-quality content overall. Stankey said "hours a day" of engagement will be HBO's new focus with their content, rather than "hours a week" or "hours a month."

Stankey said to Plepler that he feels HBO's $6 billion in annual profits is "just not enough," prompting Plepler to respond by saying "Oh, now, now, be careful."

Though much of the meeting's contents were vague -- neither Stankey or Plepler seemed to announce any concrete changes coming to HBO -- it's clear that the company's content will be changing quite a bit moving forward. Unfortunately for employees, these changes are not likely to be easy to handle.

"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," Stankey said to the employees gathered before him. "You will work very hard, and this next year will — my wife hates it when I say this — feel like childbirth. You’ll look back on it and be very fond of it, but it’s not going to feel great while you’re in the middle of it."

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MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
They BETTER not touch the length of GOT episodes. Freaking AT&T! Keep your meaty paws off of GOT.
They're already done shooting most of the last season - I'm sure GOT will be fine. (At least it better be, or the collective fan base will be angrier than a double-crossed Cersei Lannister.)

Really though - not too surprising... The new AT&T now has over $181 billion in debt. That's a LOT! They're going to need a little more from HBO than a puny $6b per year to put a dent in that.
 

mrjgriffin

TS Evangelist
So um I immediately thought of those people that buy dirt weed for cheap > people who actually buy good weed for a little more money when I read the article title. figured you'd wanna know.
 
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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
The more with less quality model has been tried by several cable networks in fakeality shows that are cheap to produce and air, but are of so low quality that those used to higher-quality shows refuse to watch.

Take SyFy a several years back say in the Stargate days, then shortly after that they came up with a bunch of fakeality shows that no one from the Stargate days wanted to watch. Maybe two or three years ago, SyFy finally regained their senses and moved back to quality scripted programming. In fact, a SyFy exec publically said as much. I do not know how SyFy is doing now, but I do know that some of their current scripted programming is highly regarded.

Based on SyFy's experience, I predict that this move will fail and HBO/AT&T will lose more money by making this move because so many of the current HBO viewers are likely watching HBO because of the current quality of the shows.

Instead of learning from the past experience of other networks, it sounds like AT&T has decided that they are different, and people will flock the lower quality offerings like flies to sh!t. My bet is once again, this will prove Einstein correct, and eventually HBO will return to offering quality shows rather than piles of low-quality programming.

As I see it, though I am not an HBO subscriber, the best way for HBO to accomplish more engagement is to offer more high-quality shows even if they cost more to produce.
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
Is this guy retarded? What shows has he produced? It is shits like him who ruin great things. This situation reminds me things which sometimes happen in Football (real football) industry which I am a fan of. A new management who succeeded in financial field acquires a club and starts making changes. They go on and on making things that are simply ridiculous while the club keeps shifting down. It always ends two ways. they sell unable to come up with ways to recover loses. Or they let people who have managed football clubs to do the management.


But seriously, how can you take something like GoT and turn it into 20 minute show? Short shows are usually trashy comedies.
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
Maybe they will go netflix style and produce 1 good show series and 4 crap shows that most people won't watch. You get to advertise the god stuff that is winning awards, and then shove the crap down peoples faces every time they login.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
"AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson went so far as to suggest that episodes of Game of Thrones might be cut down to 20 minutes, noting that "a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience" for mobile users."

Are there a lot of people who watch game of thrones on their phones? I hope not at kid's birthday parties...

HBO's content length is designed to fit the series, which is how it should be. Compromising a show to fit a certain length is just going to lead to poor quality. Shooting is mostly done, if they change the episode length they are going to have to do all sorts of chopping and compromise to get it to work. Episodes are designed with a climatic structure in mind, changing the length will ruin that.
 

Polycount

TS Evangelist
Staff member
"AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson went so far as to suggest that episodes of Game of Thrones might be cut down to 20 minutes, noting that "a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience" for mobile users."

Are there a lot of people who watch game of thrones on their phones? I hope not at kid's birthday parties...

HBO's content length is designed to fit the series, which is how it should be. Compromising a show to fit a certain length is just going to lead to poor quality. Shooting is mostly done, if they change the episode length they are going to have to do all sorts of chopping and compromise to get it to work. Episodes are designed with a climatic structure in mind, changing the length will ruin that.
Yeah, just to be clear -- since it seems a few people were confused -- the statements I quoted were from before AT&T actually aquired Time Warner, and thus HBO.

So, they aren't up-to-date, and they were from AT&T's CEO, who is not the same guy that I go on to quote throughout the article (but he is still an AT&T exec).

The only reason I brought them up is because it demonstrated an overall mentality/approach to HBO content, I sincerely don't think AT&T plans to suddenly cut Westworld or GOT down to 20 minutes.

Future shows, on the other hand? That's a different story. I wouldn't be surprised if they go the route of just crapping out shows as fast as possible, some good, some bad, but all much quicker to produce (probably due to shorter episodes).
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
History has proven absolutely that consumers never benefit from monopolies. You know who always does? The politicians who sit on the boards of Fortune 500 companies or at least own a crap-ton of the very stocks they help manipulate (usually both). The fact that this is even legal tells you everything that's wrong with the system.
 

fktech

TS Maniac
I will turn to other media sources, for the cost I could get Hulu or Netflix crap instead at a cheaper price point.

I want coherent content with a beginning a middle and an end. To many dead end teasers is a turnoff! 20 minute shows to please the mobile crowd will not work.