According to several who heard the pitch, today’s town hall meeting at Warner Bros gave a hopeful glimpse of the synergy between Warner Bros and AT&T and it was not lost on everybody there how different this was from when Disney explained how it would integrate pieces of Fox. WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey started by giving staff the answer they most needed to hear.
Basically, he said that AT&T does nothing that Warner Bros does, so why would they have consummated this acquisition if the purpose was to get rid of you? That made today’s meeting far different than when Disney acquired Fox (the first time), and it became clear that there would be plenty of blood on the floor in duplicative departments where people are essentially doing the same jobs. Today’s meeting — moderated by Dee Dee Myers and where Stankey and Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara held court and answered questions — they said that while there might be some duplication to be worked out on the corporate level in areas like tax and accounting and government relations departments. But AT&T did not see any reason that big personnel cuts are coming.
Rather, Stankey told the staff that the studio should continue to do what it does, and look at new owner AT&T’s assets as an opportunity to plug into an interface with a customer base of more than 100 million. The thought was that will change the look and opportunity of large scale product launches like the next Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. It was also clear that a streaming service will be eyed in the near term, and that AT&T’s customer base could be helpful in gaining a foothold.
My source said Tsujihara spoke like a leader who expects to be part of things going forward. He and Stankey spoke of the fact that the business is changing so quickly that the priority is to figure out how to plug into the synergistic opportunities offered by the two companies over the next five years.
Some of the back and forth was humorous, like the inevitable question on whether employees will really be able to reap discounts on their phone service and their DirectTV subscriptions (they will). And it was mentioned that WarnerMedia will be a less confusing identity than TimeWarner, as Stankey said was evidenced when a TW Cable exec got subpoenaed to testify before Congress when in fact, it was Jeff Bewkes who was needed on Capitol Hill.
The Netflix model was alluded to several times as Stankey and Tsujihara spoke of their plans to scale up in a similar manner in the future. They will spend the next few months figuring out how to do that. Tsujihara mentioned that the studio sold only two shows to HBO in two years, and the implication was there will be more synergy as the pieces coalesce to meet a fast changing media landscape. Though no promises were made, an emphasis on a competitive OTT service will clearly be part of the plan.