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AT&T (T) Gears Up for HBO Max Launch With Preview Channel

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In order to support the upcoming launch of the HBO Max streaming service, AT&T Inc. T has decided to transform its Audience Network Pay TV channel as the HBO Max Preview channel. The transition is likely to take place in Spring 2020 ahead of HBO Max’s official debut in May, and the promotional makeover is expected to affect both linear and streaming broadcasts of Audience Network.

The strategic move is intended to supplement AT&T’s broader original content and marketing focus on HBO Max by tapping the wide coverage of Audience Network. Over the years, the Pay TV channel has emerged as one of the leading players in original content since its launch as ‘FreeView’ in November 1999. Initially focusing on music and concerts, it gradually grew its content portfolio and was rebranded to ‘The 101 Network’ in early 2005, and later to Audience Network in 2010 when it expanded into a scripted original series.

With its commercial debut, HBO Max will offer about 10,000 hours of premium content, leveraging an extensive collection of exclusive original programs and the most sought-after shows from WarnerMedia’s vast portfolio of beloved brands and libraries. These include the exclusive streaming rights for popular shows such as FriendsThe Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars. In addition, it will showcase programming from Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth and Looney Tunes.

With an unrivaled bouquet of premium and exclusive content for an impressive direct-to-consumer experience across the age group, HBO Max will likely equip AT&T to play catch-up with avant-garde media firms like Netflix, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company to secure a bigger pie of the streaming service market.

Notably, AT&T has been ramping up its streaming services with the launch of live TV channels DirecTV Now in 2016, and a cheaper live-TV service WatchTV in 2018. With modest successes in both these ventures and continued subscriber loss in its DirecTV satellite TV business as users tend to shift to Internet video services, AT&T intends to focus more on video-streaming content. With the launch of HBO Max, while continuing with HBO Now as a separate subscription-based streaming service, AT&T aims to bring stiff competition to its rivals within this space.

Meanwhile, a recent study by Ookla, which tracks network speeds, has established AT&T as the fastest wireless network in the United States in 2019. AT&T achieved the pole position with an average download speed of 43.2 megabits per second on all devices, followed by Sprint Corporation at 39.5 megabits per second, Verizon Communications Inc. VZ at 37.3 megabits per second and T-Mobile US Inc. TMUS at 36 megabits per second. This is likely to give a significant boost to the company as it gears up for more 5G deployment across the country.

The stock has gained 25.6% in the past year compared with a rise of 10.4% for the industry.

AT&T presently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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