AT&T CEO says HBO is 'Tiffany' to Netflix's 'Walmart'
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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, now a media mogul with the telecom giant's acquisition of Time Warner, threw some shade on competitor Netflix while speaking at an investor conference.
When asked how AT&T compares to other major entertainment and telecom players, Stephenson touted HBO, among the telecom company's assets gained in its $85 billion Time Warner acquisition, as "Tiffany," compared to Netflix's "Walmart," he said when speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York on Wednesday.
"We think HBO is a very, very unique asset of – in fact, as you think about where HBO fits, I think of Netflix kind of as the Walmart of SVOD (subscription video on demand), HBO is kind of Tiffany," Stephenson said. "It's a very premium, high-end brand for premium content."
He went on later to say, "HBO is a very unique brand and a very unique property. And I really – I mean what I said, it is the Tiffany's of media and entertainment."
While owning a jewel in the entertainment crown is admirable, owning Walmart wouldn't be too bad, either, as Rich Greenfield, a media and technology analyst with financial services firm BTIG in New York, noted in a tweet. Walmart's most recent annual revenue was $485 billion, compared to Tiffany's $4 billion, he said. (Walmart revenue for fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2018 was $500.3 billion; Tiffany sales totaled about $4.2 billion.)
AT&T, which also owns satellite TV service DirecTV and has a DirecTV Now live TV streaming service, plans to launch another subscription streaming service from WarnerMedia later this year, Stephenson said.
The AT&T CEO wasn't done tossing out barbs, however. When asked about whether China was winning the race to 5G, the next generation of wireless technology that promises lower latency and speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G networks, Stephenson said the U.S. remains the leader.
"Every U.S. carrier is implementing and deploying 5G. China, the latest we heard is that there are carriers trialing 5G," Stephenson said. "The U.S. has allocated more spectrum to 5G ... China is not ahead. The U.S., just like 3G, just like 4G, is leading the charge on 5G."
He also pooh-poohed competitor Verizon's claims that it was providing the first 5G service in the U.S. The company said it would begin taking orders Thursday for fixed wireless 5G service to homes in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, with service to go live Oct. 1.
But Stephenson noted a caveat, in an interview with Bloomberg after speaking at the conference. Verizon's service is not mobile, and the provider is using nonstandard 5G gear initially because there's no standard 5G equipment available.
“They are going to be first with a nonstandard service,” Stephenson said. “We will be first with a standards-based 5G service, and it will be mobile.”
AT&T plans to launch 5G mobile service to Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, and Waco, Texas, as well as Dallas, the city where it is headquartered, by the end of the year.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.