AT&T’s purchase of HBO could lead to 20-minute Game of Thrones episodes

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Enlarge / Just imagine how many 20-minute Game of Thrones episodes you could watch if you lived as long as Melisandre.

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As AT&T prepares to purchase Time Warner Inc., AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has an idea for HBO’s Game of Thrones: cut the hour-long episodes down to 20 minutes for mobile devices.

AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner would give the telco HBO and other lucrative programming properties. Stephenson discussed his thoughts yesterday at the annual JP Morgan Technology, Media, and Telecom conference in Boston.reported in Variety, and Seeking Alpha has a transcript of the conference.

It’s hard to imagine the epic Game of Thrones series being cut down to sitcom-length episodes. But Stephenson’s comment about cutting the show length was only about mobile, not TV screens. If the show is cut down on mobile, hopefully that would just be an option rather than the only way to view it on mobile devices.

Putting DirecTV and Time Warner together

AT&T purchased DirecTV in 2015, making it the biggest pay-TV provider in the US. Combining Time Warner programming with DirecTV’s satellite and mobile video services will create new revenue streams, Stephenson said.

“While DirecTV gave us great access to premium content, not owning it limits what you can do. Can you curate the content uniquely for a mobile environment? Can you create new ad-supported models for a mobile environment?” he said.

At&T is “putting in place plans now to begin curating Time Warner content uniquely for a mobile environment,” he said. There will be new “ad-supported models with the Time Warner content.”

Congressional Democrats and other AT&T/Time Warner merger opponents have been worried that AT&T will restrict Time Warner programming to its own distribution platforms. But while Stephenson wants to create new ad-supported systems specifically for AT&T customers, he said it would be “crazy” to make Game of Thrones available only to AT&T customers. That would “destroy the value of the media and entertainment business,” he said.

When Senate Democrats asked AT&T to prove that its merger would be good for customers, AT&T said that more targeted advertising will be one of the biggest benefits. The merger is being reviewed by the Department of Justice, but AT&T structured the deal in order to avoid a public interest review by the Federal Communications Commission.


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