AT&T’s Stephen­son says Net­flix is ‘Wal­mart’ to HBO’s ‘Tif­fany’

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Mike Snider

AT&T CEO Ran­dall Stephen­son, now a me­dia mogul with the tele­com giant’s ac­qui­si­tion of Time Warner, threw some shade on com­peti­tor Net­flix while speak­ing at an in­vestor con­fer­ence.

When asked how AT&T com­pares to other ma­jor en­ter­tain­ment and tele­com play­ers, Stephen­son touted HBO, among the tele­com com­pany’s as­sets gained in its $85 bil­lion Time Warner ac­qui­si­tion, as “Tif­fany,” com­pared to Net­flix’s “Wal­mart,” he said when speak­ing at the Gold­man Sachs Com­mu­na­copia con­fer­ence in New York on Wed­nes­day.

“We think HBO is a very, very unique as­set of – in fact, as you think about where HBO fits, I think of Net­flix kind of as the Wal­mart of SVOD (sub­scrip­tion video on de­mand), HBO is kind of Tif­fany,” Stephen­son said. “It’s a very pre­mium, high-end brand for pre­mium con­tent.”

He went on later to say, “HBO is a very unique brand and a very unique prop­erty. And I re­ally – I mean what I said, it is the Tif­fany’s of me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment.”

While own­ing a jewel in the en­ter­tain­ment crown is ad­mirable, own­ing Wal­mart wouldn’t be too bad, ei­ther, as Rich Green­field, a me­dia and tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyst with BTIG in New York, noted in a tweet. Wal­mart’s most re­cent an­nual rev­enue was $485 bil­lion, com­pared to Tif­fany’s $4 bil­lion, he said.

AT&T, which also owns DirecTV and has a DirecTV Now live TV stream­ing ser­vice, plans to launch an­other sub­scrip­tion stream­ing ser­vice from Warn­erMe­dia later this year, Stephen­son said.

The AT&T CEO wasn’t done toss­ing out barbs, how­ever. When asked about whether China was win­ning the race to 5G, the next gen­er­a­tion of wire­less tech­nol­ogy that prom­ises lower la­tency and speeds up to 100 times faster than cur­rent 4G net­works, Stephen­son said the U.S. re­mains the leader.

“Ev­ery U.S. car­rier is im­ple­ment­ing and de­ploy­ing 5G. China, the lat­est we heard is that there are car­ri­ers tri­al­ing 5G,” Stephen­son said. “The U.S. has al­lo­cated more spec­trum to 5G ... China is not ahead. The U.S., just like 3G, just like 4G, is lead­ing the charge on 5G.”

He also pooh-poohed com­peti­tor Ver­i­zon’s claims that it was pro­vid­ing the first 5G ser­vice in the U.S. The com­pany said it would be­gin tak­ing orders Thurs­day for fixed wire­less 5G ser­vice to homes in Houston, In­di­anapo­lis, Los An­ge­les and Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, with ser­vice to go live Oct. 1.

But Stephen­son noted a caveat, in an in­ter­view with Bloomberg af­ter speak­ing at the con­fer­ence. Ver­i­zon’s ser­vice is not mo­bile, and the provider is us­ing non­stan­dard 5G gear ini­tially be­cause there’s no stan­dard 5G equip­ment avail­able.

“They are go­ing to be first with a non­stan­dard ser­vice,” Stephen­son said. “We will be first with a stan­dards-based 5G ser­vice, and it will be mo­bile.”

AT&T plans to launch 5G mo­bile ser­vice to At­lanta, Ok­la­homa City, Char­lotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, and Waco, Texas, as well as Dal­las, the city where it is head­quar­tered, by the end of the year.

GETTY IM­AGES

“HBO is a very unique brand and a very unique prop­erty,” Ran­dall Stephen­son says.

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