AT&T CEO: Pulling HBO Max Off Amazon Was ‘Smart Decision’

When AT&T disclosed last year that it was pulling access to HBO Max off the Amazon Channels platform, the move ended up costing the telecom giant about 1.8 million domestic subscribers through the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, 2021.

Fast forward to the present and Max and HBO ended 2021 with almost 74 million combined subscribers — exceeding company projections. At the same time, AT&T was able to end paying Amazon for any Max subscriber additions. Amazon reportedly also retained control of Max subscriber data.

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In a question posed on the Jan. 26 fiscal call, CEO John Stankey said the decision to bypass Amazon turned out to be a good one.

“We felt it was the right decision,” Stankey said. “I feel it was the right decision. I think it will even be more the right decision in a post-Discovery environment, as the [combined Warner Bros. Discovery] offer only gets stronger that’s in the market and the content that’s available. At the end of the day, you want full control of your customers.”

Stankey said he remains “confident” that the 1.8 million Max subs lost would return following the launch of Warner Bros. Discovery.

“It may take a couple of quarters for that to happen,” he said. “But there will eventually be a product out there that they’re going to look at and say they want to be part of. And better to have them there where you have direct access control of them, can market to them, know what they’re doing than to have it be in some black box where you absolutely have no idea what somebody else is doing with aggregating your content and your exposure to the customer.”

Stankey reiterated that third-party SVOD subs originated through Amazon Channels really belong to Amazon.

“There are a lot of entities out there growing ‘direct-to-consumer customers’ that are behind the screen of the Amazon marketplace that really are Amazon’s direct-to-consumer customers,” he said. “They are not the media company’s direct-to-consumer customers.”

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