One of the more interesting results of the AT&T/Time Warner merger is the effect the new sale would have on HBO. The premium cable network has built a name and reputation for being a network with recent Hollywood blockbusters and incredibly high-quality original entertainment. The network has managed to keep that quality high due to being picky with what it produces. However, since there’s a new boss in town, it looks like HBO is going to be a little less picky.
AT&T executive, and new chief executive of Warner Media, John Stankey recently had a town hall with the employees of HBO to present his new vision for the network. And according to a report from the New York Times, it appears the new mandate is simple – lots of content that appeals to lots of eyeballs.
“We need hours a day. It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day,” said Stankey. “You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”
Previously, HBO has long considered themselves not on the same page as Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu, due to their sheer number of original programming. HBO has prided themselves on being a cultivated selection, where the average viewer knows that there’s a high level of quality. But Stankey wants both quality and quantity.
And to do that, the executive knows it’s not going to be easy. “It’s going to be a tough year,” Stankey said. “It’s going to be a lot of work to alter and change direction a little bit.”
“I want more hours of engagement,” he said. “Why are more hours of engagement important? Because you get more data and information about a customer that then allows you to do things like monetize through alternate models of advertising as well as subscriptions, which I think is very important to play in tomorrow’s world.”
Stankey is clearly making a move to turn HBO into another streaming giant, a la Netflix and Amazon. So, how exactly does the exec want HBO to change to compete with the big boys of the Streaming Wars? “As I step back and think about what’s unique about the brand and where it needs to go, there’s got to be a little more depth to it, there’s got to be more frequent engagement,” Mr. Stankey said. He continued by saying that HBO must “build that brand so that it’s broad enough to make that happen.”
And more practically, Stankey knows that building a more broad, bigger network isn’t going to be cheap. “I do believe there needs to be stepped-up investment,” he admitted.
We’ll see how this new change is handled in the coming year, as Stankey further cements his plans. However, early signs are that HBO is about to make a big play to become yet another must-have streaming subscription.