John Stankey, the top executive behind the HBO Max platform

  • The now CEO of AT&T, a telecommunications giant, has been the architect of the platform

The announcement of the fourth season of ‘Succession’ – that family that, more than a home, is a cage of lions – has become the big ad campaign for HBO Max, the new ‘streaming’ platform that has just landed in Spain, includes the contents of the classic HBO and Warner Media, and has an ideologue, the executive John Stankey (1962), who operates at the top of the entertainment and telecommunications food chain with a similar cold-blooded and monetarist approach to the Roy family.

Stankey –CEO since last year of AT&T, the telecommunications giant to which the new platform belongs– is not as freaked out as his Netflix competitor Reed Hastings, but the veteran executive has starred in some of the decisions that best explain the current moment of television fiction.

“More hours a day”

For example, when in 2018 AT&T bought Time Warner, and with it HBO, the so-called “quality” chain, the then head of the entertainment division summoned the president of the channel, later fired, John Plepler. And before his astonished 150 employees, he communicated the new plans of the house: making quality television was good, even very good, because they were also profitable. But in the era of Netflix, he came to say, that was no longer enough. “The hours of television consumption per month or even per week are not enough for us. We need hours a day. We are competing with devices that people carry in their hands and that capture their attention every 15 minutes.”

What Stankey was trying to say is that, from now on, they needed more users and more hours of viewing to get more data on consumer habits, information that would undoubtedly help the telecommunications giant in devising its strategies. “We have to make money at the end of the day, right?” Said the executive. “We already do,” replied the outgoing helmsman. “But just,” he agreed, “not enough.” From now on it was clear that The dominant force of television is the same one that drives social media and how much business carries the name ‘digital’: the relentless and monetizable pursuit of our attention.

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Good plots

Those plans were the embryo of 1 / the HBO Max platform that this week has reached Spain and the Nordic countries and 2 / the final promotion of Stankey – married, father of three children and senior manager in the industry since the 1980s. – to the AT&T CEO chair. In recent times, it has made decisions there – and setbacks – only within the reach of grand class payrolls (some information suggests that in 2019 and 2020 it earned more than 20 million annually). Last year, the telecommunications giant lost $ 5.4 billion and, between 2015 and 2021, they were 42,000 workers laid off only in the US. This exercise, by a slight majority, shareholders have opposed executives like Stankey earning the bonuses that they did in the past, despite the pandemic, losses and massive layoffs. Without a doubt, in their own headquarters, the writers of ‘Succession’ would find good plots for the announced fourth season.

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