New AT&T CEO Says You're A Moron If You Don't Use AT&T Streaming Services

from the meet-the-new-boss dept

Last week AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stepped down after his $150 billion bid to dominate the video advertising space fell flat on its face. Stephenson's tenure was plagued by no shortage of scandals, though it was his failures on the TV front that likely cost him his comfy seat as one of the highest paid executives in America.

After spending $150 billion on several dubious megamergers (most notably the 2015 purchase of a satellite TV provider DirecTV), Stephenson saddled the company with an ocean of debt. So much debt it was forced to raise rates on customers in the middle of one of the biggest transformational shifts in the TV sectors in decades (cord cutting and the rise of streaming video). And while Stephenson deserves credit for at least trying to get out ahead of the trend, his tenure was pockmarked by a long line of dubious decisions that directly contributed to the company losing more than 3.2 million pay TV subscribers last year alone.

But Stephenson's replacement, AT&T executive John Stankey, doesn't seem much better. In a profile piece last week, Bloomberg described fairly idiotic and cocky recent comments by Stankey as "blunt." Among them was the claim that "nobody knows as much about TV as me," and the insistence that those who don't subscribe to AT&T's confusing assortment of discount TV streaming services must certainly be stupid:

"When pitching AT&T’s new HBO Max streaming platform, he told the audience that anyone unwilling to pay $15 a month for the service had a low IQ. At a town hall with HBO employees last year, Stankey said the network had to dramatically increase its programming output, comparing the work ahead to childbirth. Once, when a Time Warner veteran criticized an idea during a meeting, Stankey replied, “I know more about television than anybody."

Yeah, sounds like just the guy to right the ship, and earn employee and customer respect. Especially for a company plagued with no shortage of hubris that believed it could just bully, bullshit, and bribe its way to industry domination.

One of the major reasons Stephenson was ejected was courtesy of recently hyperactive hedge fund Elliott Management, which holds a massive stake in AT&T. Elliott complained that Stephenson had become megamerger happy and, despite eliminating 37,000 jobs to recoup merger debt (despite billions in regulatory FCC favors and a $42 billion Trump tax cut) wasn't doing enough firing. Reports now suggest that Elliott didn't much like Stankey either, but settled on him after external options proved even more underwhelming:

"Elliott, the hedge fund run by Paul Singer, remains skeptical of incoming CEO John Stankey’s decision-making but has decided his understanding of AT&T’s sprawling assets makes him a better candidate to take over for Stephenson than any external candidate, according to the people...Elliott was skeptical of Stankey’s decision-making as an architect of AT&T’s acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner. It advocated that AT&T focus on divesting assets and lowering debt, pushing the largest U.S. wireless company to sell DirecTV, one of the assets Stankey has steadfastly defended."

In short nobody in this drama seems to know what they're actually doing. Few were happy with AT&T's previous leadership. And few seem happy with AT&T's new leadership, who apparently thinks he's a TV sector super genius, and you're a moron if you don't subscribe to AT&T's generally underwhelming TV offerings. Surely this will all go swimmingly.

Filed Under: john stankey, randall stephenson, streaming, tv
Companies: at&t


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  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 6:27am

    How is it that Elliot Capital, which owns just about 1.5% of AT&T stock have such strong influence on the company? I mean, I get that is a lot of money, but having just that much of a company lets you PICK THE CEO? Are you kidding me?! What is going on here? America, Explain!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Koby (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      How is it that Elliot Capital, which owns just about 1.5% of AT&T stock have such strong influence on the company?

      I think this has to do with Elliot's credibility. Since they have taken over other companies, fixed their problems, and successfully boosted the stock price in past situations, other AT&T stock holders are easily willing to go along with Elliot and join forces. Meanwhile, the past AT&T leadership hadn't exactly had a good track record in recent years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 8 May 2020 @ 6:07am

      Re:

      "What is going on here?"

      Picture a boardroom. Picture that around the table of this boardroom you've got the major shareholders (owning 95% of the company) who are all ruthless bastards willing to sell their mothers for a chance to pull a fast one on the next guy at the table.

      Time comes to vote for a CEO. Do you choose the voting blocks governed completely by the opposition? Get blackballed when trying to present your own stooge? Or do you get yourself a gentleman's agreement to pick that one guy no one else has in their camp already?

      It's a bit like US lawyers vetoing out jurors.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 6:44am

    I'm a moron

    TIL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 6:51am

    "comfy seat as one of the highest paid executives in America"

    I was told that these high flying captains of industry are compensated at levels that will insure they are immune to corruption - LOL.

    Yes, I'm serious. That is what some call education, I prefer to call it propaganda. One would think that if you are bad at your job, you will be let go. I guess that does not apply at the top levels of corporations.

    Oh well, the cream raises to the top huh. Cream of the crop they said. More like the good ol' boy network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 7:03am

    It's not like AT&T's customer service has ever improved with their begrudging move to streaming. With arrogantly stupid comments like that of its new CEO on top, its pretty much a great idea to just ignore their streaming service along with their other services and watch them strangle themselves with debt for their hubris.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tracie Goldman, 7 May 2020 @ 7:11am

    I am even more relieved that I sold my att stock weeks ago

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 10:41pm

      Re:

      I am even more relieved that I sold my att stock weeks ago

      There are three types of investors.

      Those who hold long expecting the company to deliver. Most companies work hard to return these stockholders' investments.

      Those who hold short expecting the stock price to soar as others come to buy it. Some companies suck up to these stockholders... but it's so ephemeral and against the previous goals it's tough to do.

      People who know nothing about investing and think the company actions in 2020 has anything to do with their divesting weeks ago. That's you.

      Thanks for selling. The stock market needs less short-sighted people who are "relieved [they] sold [their] stock weeks ago." Stop playing stock market and go get a job where your whimsical fancy of which-stock-buy-or-sell-today hurts real people.

      That's the problem with today's US stock market -- anyone thinks they can play "Day Trader" but the end result is companies working to get that immediate gain and trading off the longer term gain. The stock market came about as a result of companies wanting capital for the LONG game, not the "oh I sold it off yesterday so I'm so..... relieved" short-term players.

      If you have to ask, it's not your game.

      E

      E

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 7:13am

    Just another service I won't be signing up for, I must be an idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 8:04am

    Because what that company really needed was a kid in charge

    Insults potential customers for not being stupid enough to want their garbage product at inflated rates, gets angry and defensive any time someone questions him and tries to defend himself by boasting about how much smarter he is than anyone around him...

    Look, I get that having someone like that in a position of authority is in fashion these days, but that doesn't make it any less stupid a thing to do. Sometimes not following the trend is the better choice, and this is very much one of those times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 8:26am

    Sounds familiar

    'gets angry and defensive any time someone questions him and tries to defend himself by boasting about how much smarter he is than anyone around him...

    Look, I get that having someone like that in a position of authority is in fashion these days'

    Well, this is America and someone like that could go very far, right to the top perhaps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 8:32am

    'New AT&T CEO Says You're A Moron If You Don't Use AT&T Streaming Services'

    a better comment would be

    'you'd be a twat if you did use 'AT&T Streaming Services'!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 9:18am

    I don't see his point.. Even assuming we take his statement at face value and say everyone who doesn't subscribe is a moron.. How does that help anything for them?

    Do they not want morons on their service? Are they only interested in attracting more intelligent people to their service or something? It's a TV Streaming service for goodness sake it shouldn't require an IQ test to subscribe..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 9:26am

    Anyone who thinks this blowhard will be good for the company is a ...

    Never mind. Forget I said anything. Picture me sinking back to the depths.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 10:58am

    Oliver

    I wonder if John Oliver will have more snide comments about his "business daddy" on the next episode.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 11:40am

    Can we prove it?

    " (despite billions in regulatory FCC favors .."

    I would Love to be able to show WHO got the money, but this can be no more then an opinion.

    I hate the thought of Major corps doing the least to get more. I think there is a Story about the Landline connections controlled by ATT. And it aint good.
    Even GE is forgetting WHO we are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 11:47am

      Re: Can we prove it?

      For allthe money GIVEN to this company to do the better things and improve the economy..
      LETS take the tax breaks away..
      The money we gave you WAS A LOAN...
      This is all virtual goods, and Once sent out you can never get them back..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 12:24pm

    Stankey's command of knowledge

    "nobody knows as much about TV as me"

    That would be "nobody knows as much about TV as I", Stankey.
    Likely his knowledge of English and his knowledge of TV reached their zenith (acme?) somewhere around third grade.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 7 May 2020 @ 1:54pm

    HBO?

    So I'm a moron for not paying $15/mo for HBO. Even ignoring the possibility of alternative methods of obtaining HBO's content, why would I? AFAIK, I've never watched a HBO show--I know I've never watched Game of Thrones, and that's the only title that comes to mind. So why would I want to pay $15/mo for access to a network I've never needed or wanted before?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 3:07pm

      Re: HBO?

      Got it..
      But whats strange is that its $15 to the cable company, who pays for every person subscribed... And HBO gets $??
      then when you go direct to HBO, they still want $15, directly??
      If they charged $1 per person per month on the net, Millions would Jump to it.
      But then they would add, Pay per view, and Video on demand, and charge extra..
      And millions per month would probably not even pay the CEO wages.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 3:44pm

    The whole point of cable-cutters

    How did cable-cutters become a thing? As one, I'll tell you. It's because [as TD has said many times before] I don't know if I want my $15 to go to HBO and my $20 to go Netflix and my $10(/mo) to go to Amazon Prime and ON TOP OF THAT pay Comcast $100 just to access these very same things.

    When I say "I don't know" I'm suggesting I do know -- I want NONE of them to get these funds. If I download these shows and watch them myself (Kodi, XBMC, PMS, whatever) I can

    • not watch commercials
    • view them for life, not for a limited time
    • fast forward, rewind, pause
    • watch on my TV, laptop, smartphone, and my car

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2020 @ 4:58pm

    Long ago gave up on paying to watch tv. Seemed more and more were idiot shows, constant reruns, and reality shows that actually had little to do with reality. So I dropped cable along with the monthly cost many years ago. Then came digital and I dropped tv all together.

    I recently bought another tv and hooked it to an antenna. I don't watch much tv any more and rarely a show. Mostly it's used for local news and background noise.

    I also dropped AT&T services when they started jacking rates and changing terms to gain more money. Their service is atrocious to put it on it's best perspective.

    At this point it is beyond me why I would want to pay anything for any tv program since I'm not much interested anymore. $15 is far beyond what I am willing to pay just for the privilege of it just sitting there unused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 8 May 2020 @ 1:23am

    Just give me six months in that job and I bet I can (start to) turn that company around.

    Qualifications: None
    Previous experience: None
    References: None
    Wealth: None
    Assets: My PC and my hi-fi

    All I need is a chance. And if it doesn't work out, I'll even give 99% of my pay back (would be 100% but I need to live and I have no money). I believe I could do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2020 @ 2:15am

    No shank you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 May 2020 @ 6:02am

    When a CEO calls me a moron

    When a CEO calls me a moron, it really makes me want to do business with them and their company. Nothing encourages me more to do business with a company than when their CEO calls me a moron. Calling customers or potential customers is a time honored business tragedy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 8 May 2020 @ 1:17pm

    Being called a moron is so... inviting.

    When a CEO calls me a moron, it really makes me want to do business with them and their company. Nothing encourages me more to do business with a company than when their CEO calls me a moron. Calling customers or potential customers [morons] is a time honored business tragedy.

    ^^^^THAT!

    E

    non-TL;DR:
    When I owned my own business friends would say "Oh, you're so lucky you don't have a boss!" I had hundreds of bosses... we called them "customers" and if we weren't polite, professional, and attended to their needs they fired us.

    Sometimes even when we did everything right we'd get fired... because they were "reorganizing" and "money is tight" and "contracts only mean as much as you're willing to pay a lawyer to litigate."

    For a CEO of a public-serving corporation to call his customers morons is the height of ... hubris. I can't imagine anyone in a high office in this land calling people morons /s

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2020 @ 8:01am

    You Can't Make Up This Stuff

    Childish, I know, but his name is "Stanky"?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 10:08am

    “I know more about television than anybody."

    That reminds me of somebody else... Who could that ever be?

    Oh wait! That guy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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