AT&T Inc.’s boss said the company may shift resources to HBO from other parts of its newly acquired Time Warner business to step up programming investments and use data on its customers’ tastes and habits to inform its content bets, part of a plan to compete with streaming giant Netflix Inc.
Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also said the reams of data the telecom and television giant has — from the viewing preferences of its DirecTV subscribers to where customers take their phones — will help build up an advertising analytics business that could benefit the television industry more broadly, helping media companies compete with Facebook Inc. FB, -2.37% and Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL, -1.55% Google.
Stephenson said in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal that AT&T T, +2.30% , seeking to catch up to Netflix’s NFLX, +3.94% larger customer base, might shift resources from creating original programs for its Turner cable networks to HBO. Those Turner channels, like TNT and TBS, could use some freed-up program time to air HBO reruns, which could in turn bring new viewers to HBO, he said. “A lot of the content spend is in Turner, specifically TNT and TBS,” he said. “Is that really the highest and best use of capital? Or is it more appropriate and best use to put it toward HBO?”
Stephenson said HBO, which spent $3.7 billion last year on programming, is unlikely to spend anywhere close to the $11 billion to $12 billion in cash that analysts expect Netflix will spend this year on content, but he said that as a whole WarnerMedia, which also includes CNN and the Warner Bros. film studio, will roughly match Netflix.
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