The “Tiffany” of video streaming is already headed down market.AT&T boss Randall Stephenson — who last year likened the company’s future HBO-backed streaming service to the blue-box bauble business, claiming it will make Netflix look like Walmart by comparison — revealed Wednesday the platform will use a “two-sided” model that relies on a free, ad-supported tier as well as paid subscriptions.
Whether it’s free or not, Wall Street is increasingly concerned that AT&T has been skimpy on details when it comes to what content the service will carry beyond HBO series like “The Sopranos” and “Silicon Valley.”
What’s more, some critics are carping at AT&T’s move to sell Netflix the rights to “Friends” for $100 million — a deal that further dilutes the potential exclusivity of the “Tiffany” service.
“AT&T got a lot of money from Netflix but, if they are not retaining ‘Friends’ exclusively, it calls into question how AT&T will be able to attract new content to its direct-to-consumer offering,” said BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk.
“There’s certainly an attraction for content producers to work with Netflix, Amazon and even Apple, and it’s not just because of the size of their checkbooks,” he added.
Stephenson defended the “Friends” decision on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “That was one where we said exclusivity is probably not that critical on that type of content, but it’s critical to have on our platform, so we did license it to Netflix, but on a nonexclusive basis,” he said.