AT&T has given us a lot of answers about why the merger with Time Warner is going to be great for advertisers. There’s Xandr and data and addressable and cross platform and then even more data once 5G happens.
But what they haven’t told us is why the service is going to be great for viewers.
What’s more, recent shake-ups in their management team would seem to indicate that they are still very much in the process of figuring it out.
We have a lot of questions about what they might be up to, which we’ve helpfully broken down into several buckets, though there is admittedly a lot of overlap.
- Will Warnerflix be ad-free, partially ad-free (the Hulu model) or completely ad supported?
- Will ad-supported vs ad-free be the difference between the three tiers AT&T is planning to launch with?
- Will HBO and/or HBO content be ad-free on all three tiers?
- If not, will having ads on HBO shows hurt the brand?
- Will ad loads be noticeably lighter on Warnerflix than linear (e.g., at least 50% lighter)?
- Will TNT sporting events be ad-free or ad-supported on WarnerFlix?
- If they’re ad-free, will we just have to listen to announcers blathering on during time outs?
- Will AT&T consider promos for its own shows to be “advertising” or will it also show them to ad-free viewers?
WHAT GOES WHERE, ESPECIALLY HBO
- There’s been talk of three tiers. This seems like an unnecessarily complex structure that makes sense for cell phones but not for TV services. Is that plan flexible or set in stone?
- If not, which tier(s) get the HBO programming?
- How will HBO on Warnerflix be different than HBO on an MVPD like Cox or Verizon?
- Will the standalone HBO NOW app continue to exist?
- Will the difference be that there are more original HBO programs on Warnerflix?
- Will that hurt the standalone HBO brand if all the new “good shows” are only on Warnerflix?
- If Warnerflix combines HBO with CNN, TNT and TBS, what is the positioning: is AT&T looking to create a one-stop alternative to pay TV?
- If HBO on Warnerflix is ad-free, are the other services (CNN, TBS, TNT, Warner Movies) as well?
- If Tier 3 of Warnerflix is just movies, what’s the sales pitch versus free services like the Roku Channel and Tubi? Are there better movies? First run movies? Movies viewers can’t get on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon?
- Will AT&T bundle DirecTV Now into any of these packages, so that viewers can watch live TV plus Warnerflix?
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
- If standalone HBO is already $15, does that mean Warnerflix will cost more?
- Or will Warnerflix also cost $15, only with commercials?
- And if that’s the case, how much will ad-free Warnerflix cost?
- Will DirecTV Now be bundled together with Warnerflix?
- Will there be discounts on Warnerflix for AT&T mobile subscribers?
- What about discounts for Uverse subscribers, Direct TV subscribers, DirecTV Now subscribers, and (eventually) AT&T 5G broadband subscribers?
- Unsubscribing from HBO on an MVPD can take hours given holds on phone chains and operators who are incentivized to talk you out of it. Will Warner try and maintain that process or will cable subscribers be able to unsubscribe from HBO online too, if they switch to Warnerflix?
- Will Warnerflix take any steps to minimize churn, e.g., discounts on full-year subscriptions?
- Will the difference between standalone HBO and Warnerflix be that standalone HBO is ad-free and Warnerflix is only ad-supported?
- Will AT&T be willing to get into a price war with the other Flixes??
- Will AT&T provide a special Warnerflix product/price for viewers who currently have an HBO subscription through their MVPD or via HBO NOW?
- Will Tier 2 and Tier 3 customers be encouraged to upgrade to Tier 1 by seeing promos for programs only available on Tier 1 and receiving special upgrade offers?
WHAT’S ON WHAT?
- Will HBO’s standalone service HBO NOW have all the same shows as HBO-on-Warnerflix?
- If not, how will they decide which shows go on HBO NOW, which go on Warnerflix and which go on both?
- What will be the advantage to watching TNT or TBS on Warnerflix versus watching via DirecTV Now—will there be more originals on Warnerflix?
- If one of the tiers of Warnerflix has HBO and TBS/TNT, what will be done to let the viewer know that a show like “The Alienist” is a TNT show, not an HBO one?
- Given that SVOD means they can simultaneously hit as many audience segments as they want, will HBO/Warnerflix try and do what Netflix did and produce shows that are aimed more at middle America (e.g. Shonda Rhimes, reboot of Full House)?
- If not, are they limiting the ultimate size of their audience?
- Will TNT/TBS programming change to be more like HBO, will HBO change to be more like TNT/TBS or will they meet in the middle?
- Will there be cross-network programming, e.g., will CNN news teams produce documentaries for HBO?
- Will TBS and TNT be able to solve the lag problem for live sports on digital?
- How will Warnerflix position itself to viewers vis a vis the other Flixes?
- How will Warnerflix position itself to viewers vis a vis the current HBO service, both on MVPDs and standalone?
- How does AT&T maintain the balance of positioning CNN, TBS, TNT and HBO as distinct and separate brands for vMVPD/MVPD customers but part of a single Warnerflix brand for OTT customers?
- Do they even want to maintain them as separate brands or do they eventually want everything to just be “Warner”?
- Where does CNN fit in all of this: Is it live on Warnerflix or will CNN only produce 60 Minutes style news documentaries and other non-linear programming for Warnerflix?
- Given all the sports on TBS and TNT and the live news on CNN, will Warnerflix position itself as a primarily linear OTT network that also lets you binge on an expanded HBO?
- Will Warnerflix partner with AT&T Watch or DirecTV Now to position itself as all the TV you need (news + sports + liner + HBO)?
- Will AT&T encourage current MVPD HBO subscribers to switch to Warnerflix, even though there’s a high risk of churn?
- Will Warnerflix play up the HBO association or will they push to create their own separate brand for their originals?
- Will AT&T continue to let their new TV teams (Greenblatt, Zucker et al) run their own shows or will there be much butting of heads, especially over Xandr and other data and advertising plays?
- Will the difficulties of solving for all this push the launch date for Warnerflix well into 2020 or even 2021?
You’ll never talk or think about OTT the same way again.