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AT&T boss: Netflix is the Walmart of media

AT&T boss and chairman Randall Stephenson has compared Netflix to US retail brand Walmart and HBO to jeweller Tiffany & Co in a bid to distinguish the competing brands.

The exec, speaking at the 27th annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in Dallas on Wednesday (12 September), likened the streaming giant to the US discount department store, and then suggested that HBO was more similar to the renowned jewellery brand.

Stephenson reportedly called HBO a “very, very unique asset,” adding that he perceives Netflix as “the Walmart of [SVoD service]” while HBO is the “Tiffany’s of media and entertainment.”

The remark puzzled observers, who have noted that Walmart is far more profitable than Tiffany & Co., reporting $485bn (£371bn) in annual revenue for 2017, while Tiffany reported just $4.2bn (£3.2bn) for the period.

The exec also revealed that AT&T – which completed its $85bn (£65bn) acquisition of Time Warner in June – is planning to launch a new direct-to-consumer service for newly rebranded WarnerMedia, which was previously called Time Warner.

The platform, which will be led by AT&T chief exec John Stankey, will encompass content from the Warner Bros. content library, including HBO and Turner Sports. More details are to come in Q4.

Stephenson also noted that AT&T will increase its content spend for HBO but warned that “we are not talking about Netflix-like investments”.

Stankey and HBO head Richard Plepler are to grow the channel’s range of output, he said, adding that HBO requires a “more fulsome line-up and schedule.”

AT&T’s high expectations for HBO have been closely followed since the acquisition.

Stankey made headlines earlier this summer following a town hall meeting with Plepler and HBO staff during which he demanded the network boost profits and prepare for a “tough year” ahead.