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Will AT&T Throttle HBO?

HBO has been flying high on the backs of dragons, but it has done little to face down the rising beast of Netflix over the past five years. With a widely recognized brand name and deep pockets, HBO could have tried to match Netflix as the streaming service quadrupled spending on films and TV shows. But that’s not what happened.

HBO raised spending on programming between 2012 and 2016 by 25%, fractionally reducing it as a percentage of revenues. Netflix last year spent more than three times what HBO outlaid on films and TV shows, on an absolute basis. As AT&T nears completion of its purchase of HBO’s parent Time Warner, a looming question is whether the telecom giant will let HBO spend more aggressively so it can compete better with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other new digital outlets.

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But to be successful AT&T won’t just have to keep spending stable, it will have to pour money into the network during the content arms race. And it is hard to see that it will be up for the challenge.

Joshua David and Stewart Alsop commented on this article.
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AT&T may very well tighten the screws on HBO, and other parts of Time Warner, to lift profits and help relieve the financial burdens weighing on the telecom giant.