AT&T CFO Touts WarnerMedia Library as Competitive Edge in Streamer Battle

AT&T CFO John Stephens

AT&T CFO John Stephens

WarnerMedia is set to launch a direct-to-consumer service at the end of the year.

As WarnerMedia gets into the race for streaming audiences alongside Netflix and Amazon Prime, John Stephens, finance chief for parent AT&T, on Wednesday touted his newly acquired studio's vast library of entertainment content as a competitive edge when offering exclusive online products.

"When WarnerMedia is one of your companies, and they've been a studio well over 80 years and they have this treasure trove of quality content built up over decades and decades ... you're in a different spot than other people," the CFO told the Citi 2019 Global TMT West Conference in Las Vegas during an appearance that was webcast.

WarnerMedia's upcoming direct-to-consumer streaming offering is set to launch in beta form in the fourth quarter of this year, with three tiers of service, including a starter movie package. The pivot online will also put WarnerMedia, recently nabbed by AT&T, into direct competition for streaming audiences alongside Disney, which is currently prepping a family-friendly subscription video service that it plans to bundle with other streaming products ESPN+ and Hulu.

"The ability to utilize that [WarnerMedia] treasure trove of IP properties, that's key," Stephens told investors as he pointed to a long-established Hollywood studio with recent movie and TV successes. He cited Aquaman as his "new favorite movie," alongside A Star Is Born, The Mule and even Netflix's The Kominsky Method sitcom, "which is a Warner Bros.-produced show, even though somebody else got credit for showing it."

Netflix has raised its original content spend as WarnerMedia and Disney, major suppliers to the streaming giant, get set to pull content as they move to launch their own direct-to-consumer services online. WarnerMedia's new streaming services will also compete with Sling TV, CBS All Access and other streamers, and with rival cable providers like Comcast and Charter Communications.

"It's a great business. It's a good people, a good management team," Stephens said of WarnerMedia and its talent and executive team. "And as such, we feel we prefer the right strategy in getting the content capability that takes us to a different spot than many of the other folks when you talk about exclusive content," he added.