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AT&T CEO Says Pulling HBO Off Amazon Will Look Even Smarter After WarnerMedia-Discovery Merger

”At the end of the day, you want full control of your customers,“ John Stankey says

AT&T CEO John Stankey doubled down on his decision to pull HBO from Amazon Prime Video Channels. On a Wednesday morning conference call timed to the (mostly) mobile company’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2021 earnings results, Stankey said the move will look even smarter after WarnerMedia spins off from AT&T and into a new company with Discovery, Inc.

“We felt it was the right decision. I feel it was the right decision, I think it will even be more the right decision in a post-Discovery environment, as the offer only gets stronger that’s in the market and the content that’s available,” Stankey said. “At the end of the day, you want full control of your customers. And I’m confident with the strength of the offer that will be in the market, those customers are all going to come back into the offer.”

That may take “a couple of quarters,” he cautioned.

“Better to have them there where you have direct-access control of them to market to them, know what they are 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 said. “That is what our customer base is. There are a lot of entities out there growing quote unquote direct-to-consumer customers that are behind the screen of the Amazon marketplace that really are Amazon’s direct-to-consumer customers. They are not the media company’s direct-to-consumer customers.”

Stankey’s CFO, Pascal Desroches, backed him up.

“Keep in mind, we are launching in a number of European territories, as well as we plan to launch CNN+ this year, so we are going to be in the investment cycle,” he added. “But overall, we feel really good about the underlying trends of our direct-to-consumer business and the balance of the business is performing exactly as you would anticipate.”

Read all about AT&T’s Q4 earnings here.