HBO Max builds out its content team – but questions surround AT&T's wider TV plans

WarnerMedia boss John Stankey apparently want to merge HBO Max and DirecTV Now

HBO Max, WarnerMedia's forthcoming streaming service, has added key members to its original content and business operations teams as questions swirl around its parent company's broader ambitions in TV.

Sarah Aubrey, who served as executive vice-president of original programming at TNT, has been named head of original content. On the operational side, Eric Besner is now senior-vice president of business development and strategy.

HBO Max has added 11 new roles in total, including Aubrey and Besner. They will ultimately report to Kevin Reilly, who in December 2018 was tapped to lead WarnerMedia's then-unnamed streaming service.

“HBO Max is committed to delivering IP of the highest quality by closely collaborating with top talent to bring their ideas to life, and then strategically managing that content to build and sustain lasting cultural impact and value,” said Reilly.

“I’m honored to work with this accomplished team of executives who have amassed an arsenal of our industry’s most prestigious awards, are innovative thinkers, and trusted partners in which the creative community can put their faith every single day.”

HBO Max is expected to house more than 10,000 hours of content when it makes its spring 2020 debut, hosting both original content and WarnerMedia's existing library of progamming.

But as WarnerMedia works to crystalize its massive content offering, questions surround DirecTV Now – the streaming service from sister company DirecTV.

AT&T, which owns both WarnerMedia and DirecTV, is reportedly set to debut a new version of DirecTV Now later this year.

The telecoms giant has been testing a new set-top box, which it hopes will drive down customer acquisition costs of installing DirecTV satellites. Netflix has already agreed to integrate its app into the new box, according to FierceVideo.

“It radically reshapes what your concept of television is," said AT&T Communications' chief executive, John Donovan, at a June conference. "We think we’re going to really be disruptive in the market on features and capabilities. But we need to evolve our product."

The product needs to evolve because DirecTV is bleeding customers. Between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarterof 2019, DirecTV Now lost around 350,000 of its base – a 20% drop.

While the AT&T brass works to lift up DirecTV Now, WarnerMedia chief executive officer, John Stankey, apparently has a different aspiration – to merge it with HBO Max.

CNBC reported that Stankey wants to combine the two services to give customers a broader offering that would include original and library content from HBO Max, and live pay-TV content from DirecTV Now.

“Customers want a broad choice,” Stankey said in June. “I do believe it will take multiple providers to satisfy customers.”

WarnerMedia did not respond to comment when asked about the possible combined future of HBO Max and DirecTV Now.

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