6 big questions cord-cutters should ask about AT&T’s and HBO’s next streaming service
Changes are afoot for HBO below its new company overlords at AT&T. But what the ones adjustments may well be are nonetheless someone’s bet.
After longtime HBO CEO Richard Plepler rapidly resigned final week, AT&T executives went on a media excursion to communicate about the channel’s long term, take pictures at Netflix, and trace on the streaming service AT&T plans to release this 12 months. Still, the ones interviews didn’t divulge a lot in the best way of specifics. If the rest, AT&T and HBO’s streaming plans appear even murkier than they did per week in the past.
Here’s what I’m nonetheless scratching my head over:
Will AT&T release a streaming service this 12 months?
The timing of AT&T’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, which can mix content material from HBO, Turner , and Warner Bros., turns out a bit of fluid. Last October, AT&T mentioned it could release the service in 2019. A month later, the corporate began describing the 2019 release as a “beta” model, and it famous final month that new authentic programming received’t arrive till 2020. Earlier this week, Bob Greenblatt, the brand new head of AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit, instructed Variety that launching the beta in 2019 is “what we are hoping to do,” suggesting a lingering stage of uncertainty.
Mind you, this is identical corporate that introduced its “Next-Generation” model of DirecTV Now a half-year later than at first supposed, that also hasn’t expanded DirecTV Now’s DVR choices (after pronouncing it could accomplish that final summer time), and hasn’t delivered on promised DirecTV Now options equivalent to 4K answer and cellular video downloads. The concept that this new streaming service may also fall at the back of time table isn’t unthinkable.
Is the three-tier pricing plan set in stone?
While AT&T hasn’t introduced actual pricing for its direct-to-consumer streaming service, executives have described a three-tier machine that incorporates films for an extremely low worth, originals and extra movies (probably from HBO) for a medium worth, and a package of extra movies, comedies, and children programming from Turner’s and Warner’s catalogs for the next worth.
This manner is with out precedent within the on-demand streaming international, and it’s paying homage to the type of setup persons are looking to go away at the back of with cable. Maybe that’s why Greenblatt hedged a bit of when Variety requested him for main points on the ones plans. “How it will be tiered and all of that is still in the working stages,” he mentioned. Perhaps he’ll galvanize upon AT&T that its authentic imaginative and prescient isn’t the wisest concept.
Can AT&T get just right at making apps in 9 months?
Software hasn’t ever been a robust go well with for both HBO or AT&T. The former’s HBO Now apps are a chore to navigate, and they nonetheless lack table-stakes streaming service options equivalent to personalised suggestions and consumer profiles. AT&T’s DirecTV Now apps additionally lack profiles and personalization (once more, even if AT&T put the ones options on its public roadmap mid-2017), and each and every a part of its app but even so the grid-based channel information feels clunky.
It’s unclear whether or not AT&T will roll its new service into the ones present apps or get started from scratch. Either means, the corporate has numerous paintings to do in now not a lot time.
How a lot content material will AT&T pull from different platforms?
John Stankey, the pinnacle of AT&T’s WarnerMedia department, has up to now recommended that Netflix and different opponents will see their catalogs shrink as AT&T pulls approved films and TV presentations again to its personal products and services. But whilst the ones strikes may make AT&T’s service extra compelling, additionally they constitute an enormous possibility for a corporation with $180 billion of debt that’s looking to repay $20 billion of it this 12 months.
The want for non permanent revenues may give an explanation for why AT&T took $100 million from Netflix to solely license Friends thru 2019. It may just additionally give an explanation for why, as Redef’s Matthew Ball issues out, AT&T executives have began to waffle on whether or not they’d surrender that roughly simple cash sooner or later. “Part of me would really like to have [Friends] unique at the service however I’m now not certain that’s the proper solution but,” Greenblatt instructed The Hollywood Reporter this week. AT&T may well be understanding that the rationale Friends is widespread presently is as it has Netflix to lean on, now not vice versa. That mentality may just unquestionably lengthen to different films and presentations which are even much less of a draw.
How a lot of a legal responsibility is AT&T’s monetary state of affairs?
The underlying factor with these kind of questions is AT&T’s aforementioned debt, gathered in large part from purchasing DirecTV for $48.five billion in 2015 and Time Warner for $85 billion previous this 12 months. AT&T’s instant function is to concentrate on profitability, so it will possibly pay down that debt, which is why CEO Randall Stephenson instructed the Wall Street Journal in January that “2019 candidly is the cash 12 months.”
At the similar time, AT&T’s John Stankey just lately instructed The Hollywood Reporter that he needs the corporate’s products and services to be in 60- to 70 % of U.S. properties. Growing a streaming service to that stage of adoption would require primary investments in content material and competitive pricing, this means that AT&T’s expansion and profitability objectives are essentially at odds.
What does all this imply for you?
To carry it house for cord-cutters, these kind of questions quantity to quite a lot of uncertainty over the way you’ll get admission to HBO and different AT&T content material sooner or later. Will HBO Now exist as a standalone $15-per-month streaming service next 12 months, or will costs exchange as AT&T rolls that content material into its new service? Will you continue to be capable of upload an HBO subscription to Amazon Prime, or will AT&T pull the channel’s content material again into its personal siloed apps? And in the event you revel in staring at WarnerMedia-owned presentations like Friends, or films like The Dark Knight on Netflix, how for much longer will that be an choice?
Right now, AT&T doesn’t appear to have the solutions.
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