Over the last decade, the way people take in TV programming has changed more drastically than any other point in the medium's history, and advancements in technology play a big part in that. If some of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's latest big ideas come to fruition, things might get overhauled yet again in a pretty specific way, as his company is looking at ways to give mobile TV watching a better handhold in how we intake entertainment. Which apparently could include taking long-form dramas like Game of Thrones and reformatting them into 20-minute segments better suited for on-the-go viewing.
That sounds a little baffling, right? At least the details themselves, if not the "AT&T is trying to mess with stuff" element. Since the telecommunications giant acquired DirecTV a couple of years ago, AT&T has made some waves in enveloping the satellite service, though mostly through exclusive deals, rather than offering big new changes for current customers. But now that the $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner might actually go through at some point this year, AT&T seems to be invested in carving out a more signature approach to enhancing the mobile experience. And since Time Warner is HBO's parent company, that means AT&T will have access to Game of Thrones and The Sopranos and a lot more, which could get tinkered with for future distribution, since people tend to watch their phones and tablets for shorter amounts of time than TVs.
Now, to be fair, Randall Stephenson was only using Game of Thrones as an example when talking about his company's goals at J.P. Morgan's Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference (via Variety). And he wasn't directly stating that AT&T is currently full steam ahead on making alterations and edits to any episodes; he even joked that in voicing that example, he would cause HBO's CEO Richard Piepler to panic. So there's nothing to worry about yet, possibly, but the bizarreness of the example is still a pretty hefty implication that they'll find a way to make that and many other changes work, so long as it makes money and doesn't cause customer riots. Something tells me those Game of Thrones follow-up projects will be pegged for this.
And let's not forget that Time Warner owns a lot more networks and entertainment hubs than just HBO. We're also talking about Cinemax, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, truTV, CNN and Hulu, to get all the big names out there. And it also owns Warner Bros, which is currently setting up a DC Comics-based subscription streaming service. So once AT&T starts its mobile revolution, Game of Thrones will hardly be the only show getting some attention, though we can all take comfort in knowing that Randall Stephenson does not want to horde any of this programming as AT&T exclusives, so non-customers should have no reason to worry.
That said, we can probably expect AT&T's Audience network, and perhaps other creative outlets, to get into making more original programming that's already geared to be utilized for mobile imbibing. Of course, deciding which way to go first is kind of a "chicken or the egg" dilemma: is it better to first modify hit programming to get customers used to shorter mobile viewing sessions, or is it better to create the original content meant to draw them into that formatting?
Whichever way it goes, AT&T will certainly be making enough money to smooth over any initial problems that are had. Thankfully, we can take comfort in knowing that Winter will be here soon in all its full-length dragon-flaunting glory, as Game of Thrones is set to debut Season 7 on HBO on Sunday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET. Head to our summer TV schedule to see when all your other favorite shows, both Time Warner-owned and otherwise, will be premiering in the coming months.