It's been just a few days since AT&T announced that it would be buying Time Warner for $85.4 billion. Now Time Warner CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson are on stage at WSJD Live to talk a little more about their plans going forward. In particular, Stephenson announced that AT&T is going to release a new OTT offering called DirecTV Now for $35 a month. It'll be an "all-in" service with 100 channels, and it's coming by the end of this November.
"This deal was about one thing: how can we change the ecosystem?" said Stephenson, adding that it wasn't about preserving the status quo. "I don't think you can characterize it as defensive."
"We've done video on-demand at HBO," said Bewkes. "We knew people wanted it for every channel [...] You should be able to get any network you want on demand." He goes on to say that every TV channel should be as on-demand as HBO Now. Indeed, AT&T even wants Time Warner to break up channel bundles into a la carte offerings, which is relatively unheard of with most cable companies.
As for whether the merger will actually go through regulators, Stephenson was quite confident. He said that unlike their failed deal with T-Mobile, this isn't nearly as high-risk. This is despite the backlash it's received from both politicians and Wall Street, with everyone from Senator Al Franken to presidential candidate Donald Trump expressing their displeasure about the buyout.
Of course, Stephenson said that the deal is actually beneficial to consumers, saying that it's now able to offer lower prices, such as the $35 streaming service. Plus he said that the market won't really change. "When we wake up after this deal is approved, the wireless market will look exactly the same as it does today, and the media market will look exactly the same as it does today." Time Warner, he said, will be run as a separate wholly owned subsidiary.
As for net neutrality concerns, Stephenson said that it's no longer an issue. "You guys from Google, you won. It's done. You don't have to worry about net neutrality anymore." He also said that there's no real need to protect OTT competition, adding that "Netflix is probably going to be OK."
Stephenson also said that 1-gigabit 5G wireless service will be deployed in 2018. He said it'll significantly accelerate media consumption on mobile, and will turn AT&T into a nationwide platform of video delivery.
In the end, the deal was about creating a nationwide competitor to cable. "I border on the evangelical about it," said Stephenson. "This is the most exciting thing I've been a part of in a long time."