AT&T CEO Signals HBO Max Bundle Could Return to Top-Tier Mobile Plans

After dropping HBO Max as a bundle perk for new unlimited mobile phone plans following AT&T’s sale of WarnerMedia to Discovery, the telecom giant is eyeing possibly rebundling the streaming service as a promotion to draw new customers.

“I don’t think anything should be viewed as static and I think entertainment is part of a wireless bundle is probably something that’s going to be around with us in this industry for a good period of time, because I think certain customers resonate with it and you know HBO Max is a great product,” AT&T CEO John Stankey told analysts during a morning call on Thursday.

Stankey said AT&T “shifted the mix” of its promotional plan earlier this summer to include additional high-speed hotspot data and free roaming in certain countries during a peak travel period for subscribers.

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But looking to the rest of the year, he added AT&T may consider reoffering a free subscription to HBO Max for new unlimited wireless customers. “We like the fact that we’re kind of viewed as being the place to come to get [HBO Max] and when it’s right for us to put that up in the front line to do that, we’ll continue to do that,” Stankey told analysts.

Having spun off HBO Max as part of WarnerMedia, the new Warner Bros. Discovery entity can freely license content to others in the streaming arena. At the same time, AT&T reiterated to analysts that Warner Bros. Discovery’s programming continues to play a key role in signing up and retaining mobile and broadband customers.

Stankey also reported the proceeds from the Warner Bros. Discovery spinoff deal, put at around $40 billion, has helped “significantly” reduce the telecom giant’s overall debt load.

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And AT&T execs addressed DirecTV after closing a deal to spin off the traditional satellite TV platform, while maintaining a 70 percent interest in the combined linear TV distribution business, with private equity firm TPG holding the other 30 percent.

AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches told analysts he expected a $4 billion distribution from the stand-alone DirecTV business this year, which would fall to an estimated $3 billion in 2023. “So nothing has changed in that regard and we feel really good about how the business is performing,” Desroches added.

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