AT&T Announces Plan to Launch WarnerMedia Streaming Video Service

With streaming wars heating up, AT&T is jumping into the fray, launching a new subscription streaming TV service late next year. The news comes just four months after AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Rivals including Netflix and Amazon Prime will have to contend and compete with the as-yet unnamed service that will feature content from Turner and Warner Bros., Cartoon Network animated programs, and HBO. The latter will continue to be offered as a standalone product but the rest of the service will not available à la carte.

Crown jewel HBO will anchor the new brand. “Around HBO will come a great library of additional content from not only the WarnerMedia properties but also some selective third-party licensed content,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said. “And the driver behind this is really straightforward. We know there’s customers who love to engage with our content—we’ve got a great history of building it—much of which they can’t get in one place.”

Specific properties have not been cited, but franchises from Harry Potter, Batman, DC superhero films and HBO series Game Of Thrones and Westworld come to mind.

Stankey said the new platform will come at a “compelling price point” but declined stating a price.

An SEC filing targets launch for fourth quarter 2019 with a streaming app to follow.

“We expect to create such a compelling product that it will help distributors increase consumer penetration of their current packages and help us successfully reach more customers,” said Stankey. “You’re going to see a stronger HBO as this offering comes to market.”

“You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes,” Stankey said in July. “I want more hours of engagement. 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.”

The burgeoning direct-to-consumer streaming space, cutting out cable companies as middlemen, includes dozens of niche TV services as well as brand giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The WarnerMedia service has parallels with Disney’s plans for a direct-to-consumer streaming service expected to launch in late 2019, signaling a strategic shift for the company, already developing shows based on properties like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Never one to be left out, Apple is stealthily readying its video-streaming service, although CEO Tim Cook has been on a content buying streak this past year and did address rumors in August.

Speculation is that the service might be free, with the app pre-installed on iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV.

But as Motley Fool notes, “Apple has been enjoying considerable progress in growing its broader services business, which now includes over 300 million paid subscriptions. That’s why it would be such a surprise for the company to offer original content for free, which would represent a departure from its typical premium pricing model. Notably, it also doesn’t sound like Apple is trying to support the service with ads, either.”

There will also be third-party channels that consumers can subscribe to, delivering subscription revenue to Apple.

“Apple certainly isn’t looking to give away $1 billion worth of original content for free out of the kindness of its anodized aluminum heart,” adds Motley Fool. “But if it can successfully bolster engagement with its TV app to more meaningful levels by seeding original content, that would be a relatively small price for the richest company on Earth to pay.”

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