Will AT&T be able to handle HBO, game of thrones, the sopranos

Media analysts along with tech-industry prognosticators look at AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner along with wonder about the future of an industry in flux. Hollywood looks at the deal along with wonders what’s going to happen to HBO.

The cable network which gave the earth “The Sopranos” along with “Game of Thrones” can be the glittering jewel of Time Warner. along with at This kind of point which a federal judge has emphatically rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to block the merger, the idea can be much closer to being the property of a conservatively run company based in Dallas.

HBO’s would likely-be minders are experts in distribution systems along with profit margins who know little or nothing about the ego-fueled dramas which help put the show in show business. Will these telecommunications executives be able to put up with the producers, directors along with stars whose work gave the network 29 Emmys last year?

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“HBO’s along with AT&T’s cultures also come via a very different financial perspective,” said Gary Arlen, the head of Arlen Communications, a research firm which examines the media along with telecommunications industries. “AT&T comes via a legacy of rate regulations, along with every expense has to be justified.”

along with on the personal level, how will the relationship go between Richard Plepler, the smooth-talking, perpetually tanned chief executive of HBO, along with the man who would likely be his brand new boss, Randall Stephenson, a former national chairman of the Boy Scouts of America? The two executives seem as different via each different as the companies they run.

“AT&T can be very much oriented toward technology, however the idea still comes via the mentality of pole climbers along with operations guy,” Mr. Arlen said.

HBO can be facing a change in ownership as the idea finds itself competing for viewers along with talent like never before.

In 2013, when Mr. Plepler became chief executive of the premium cable network, the idea was almost alone in its field. “Game of Thrones” was proving to be an unlikely hit with audiences along with critics, along with Netflix, a company best known, at the time, for sending DVDs in red envelopes to subscribers nationwide, was not yet a threat. Its first real hit, “House of Cards,” was just about to start its first season.

from the 20 months since the AT&T deal was announced, the competition has grown more intense. Netflix at This kind of point spends $8 billion on content annually, with Amazon kicking in more than $4 billion for its own programming efforts. Another streaming company, Hulu, has an annual budget of roughly $2.5 billion, a figure which can be close what HBO lays out each year.

Once the deal can be completed, Mr. Plepler will report to John Stankey. In his more than 30 years at AT&T, Mr. Stankey has held a long list of positions: chief executive of the AT&T entertainment group, group president of telecom operations, chief executive of business solutions.

from the coming weeks, Mr. Stankey will go on a corporate not bad-will tour — he can be likely to a host a forum for HBO employees in brand new York next week, along with he will do the same for the channels in Time Warner’s Turner family, including TBS along with TNT.

Whatever he says probably won’t change Mr. Plepler’s view which HBO needs to be left alone in order to thrive.

“You have to have a Chinese wall between the creative process along with everything else,” Mr. Plepler told The brand new York Times shortly after the deal was announced in 2016. He added which he would likely be “very surprised” if AT&T did not embrace which.

Since then, AT&T has said the right things — for the most part.

“At the end of the day, you’re acquiring a business which’s been very successful,” Mr. Stephenson said at a recent tech conference in California. “the idea’s been run very independently. HBO can be run independently via Warner Bros., which can be run independently via Turner, along with the idea’s been a very not bad type.”

AT&T executives have considered how the company might take advantage of HBO’s creative engine to generate brand new forms of video for mobile devices. along with Mr. Stephenson has stressed the need to amplify HBO’s streaming service.

“I’m anxious to kind of move the direct-to-consumer platforms as aggressively as possible,” he said at the tech conference.

Those statements suggest which AT&T wouldn’t get in Mr. Plepler’s way. however at another conference, Mr. Stephenson let slip one comment which hinted at a more aggressive brand of corporate oversight.

“the idea will cause Plepler at HBO to panic when I say This kind of,” he said, “however can you begin to think about things like ‘Game of Thrones,’ as an example, where, in a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode may not be the best experience? Should you think about 20-minute episodes?”

Although HBO still generates big revenue ($6.3 billion last year), its status as the ultimate prestige network can be under some threat. While the idea has led all TV networks in Emmy nominations for 17 consecutive years, which gap can be narrowing. Netflix, which makes shows like “Stranger Things” along with “The Crown,” had 20 fewer nominations than HBO last year; three years ago which gap was more than 0.

along with in an effort to be all things to all viewers, Netflix turns out programming in dramas, comedies, stand-up specials, documentary series along with unscripted reality shows. To counter which approach, HBO executives have begun describing their network as the home of curated content, something like a high-end content boutique.

however which strategy comes with some risk.

With far fewer releases each year than Netflix, each of HBO’s shows can be under more pressure to succeed. “Here along with at This kind of point,” a drama via Alan Ball which premiered This kind of year, has already been canceled. “Succession,” the network’s brand new drama about a warring media family, has had so-so ratings along with mixed reviews, however HBO has already renewed the idea for a second season.

“Game of Thrones,” the most well-liked series from the network’s history, has six episodes left before the idea bows out. The network has ordered a pilot for a potential spinoff series, with at least three others in development. “Westworld” has had steady ratings in its second season, drawing more than two million viewers an episode, according to Nielsen’s delayed-viewing data. which’s bigger than anything else on premium cable right at This kind of point.

The network’s next big bet can be on a limited series starring Amy Adams along with directed by the “Big Little Lies” director Jean-Marc Vallée, “Sharp Objects,” which premieres in July. If HBO executives knew which “Here along with at This kind of point” was a miss — as its sedate marketing campaign suggested — they are telegraphing the opposite for “Sharp Objects.”

“the idea ranks up there with some of the finest things we’ve ever done,” Mr. Plepler told Variety on Tuesday.

Mr. Plepler has made clear which talent — whether Mr. Vallée or Ms. Adams or Nicole Kidman — along with his connection to the idea can be what makes HBO work.

“the idea’s very much part of the DNA of HBO: Talent can be sacred,” Mr. Plepler said after the AT&T deal was announced. “They bring the magic into our company. Writers, producers, actors. the idea’s their gifts which make HBO HBO. the idea’s pretty clear to anybody who looks at our company via afar — along with, in AT&T’s case, more closely — we are a talent-centric place.”

In what could be construed as a plea to his possible future boss, he added: “I can’t imagine, with everything which Randall made clear to us, why would likely you ever change a winning game? I don’t think they have any intention of doing so.”

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