AT&T's John Stankey Talks Plans for DirecTV Now, Effects of Hurricane Harvey

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John Stankey

The executive, who has been tapped to oversee Time Warner after AT&T's acquisition of the media business closes, also reiterated that the company doesn't plan to sell CNN.

AT&T plans to offer more content on its DirecTV Now internet-enabled skinny TV bundle in the future, John Stankey said Thursday. 

The AT&T Entertainment Group chief told attendees at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference that the focus on DirecTV Now has been "on what the initial product was that was launched on the platform." But he explained that there will be new iterations of the service, which he calls "a means of being able to distribute content on any device, anywhere to any customers." 

Stankey, who will oversee the Time Warner business after the deal wins federal approval, also reiterated what he previously told The Hollywood Reporter, that CNN is not for sale. "They've got wonderful content that's time and place specific, that's time-of-day specific, that can engage audiences in real time," he said. 

When AT&T's planned $85.4 billion acquisition finally closes, the telecom company will own a cable portfolio that includes HBO, CNN, TBS and TNT. Stankey acknowledged that the traditional linear television business is in the midst of a significant change as consumers increasingly turn to streaming video options. "We know that consumer tastes have been wedded to a different way of consuming," he said, later adding, "I expect pay TV as we know it is at peak." But he pointed to offerings like DirecTV Now as helping to insulate the AT&T business from the cord cutting that is occurring among many customers. 

Stankey also weighed in on the effects that Hurricane Harvey, which widespread devastating effects, including leaving more than 300,000 people in Texas, will affect AT&T's business. He indicated that the company's third quarter results would likely be impacted. "We put a lot of infrastructure under the ground," he said. "There was a lot of infrastructure exposed to high winds and water, and that means damage. We do know Harvey's damage is widespread, and it takes a little time to assess it." He continued that the closest comparison would probably be Hurricane Katrina, adding that "from a rebuilding perspective, that's a multi-year commitment."