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HBO Max Managing Password Sharing ‘The Right Way,’ AT&T Chief John Stankey Says

AT&T
John Stankey (Image credit: AT&T)

With Netflix looking to crack down on password-sharing to revive subscription growth, AT&T CEO John Stankey said HBO Max has the problem under control.

Speaking on AT&T’s first-quarter earnings call Thursday, Stankey said that controlling password sharing was something that was considered when HBO Max was being created.

“We were thoughtful about making sure that we give our customers enough flexibility, but we don’t want to see rampant abuse,” Stankey said. “I’m not going to go into all the details, but there were a lot of things and features built into the product that are consistent with the user agreement, that has terms and conditions on how they can and can’t use it. And we’ve enforced them obviously in a way that I think has been customer sensitive.”

The HBO Max approach has worked, he said. 

“You don’t see anyone complaining massively about it,” he said.

“I can tell you that we actively, in any given month, are looking at how particular users are using the product and have features and capabilities technically to limit what I would call rampant abuse,“ Stankey said. ”And so, I would tell you that I think that's the right way for the industry to be managed. And I think maybe some are going to adjust practices and approaches over time to try to get their arms around that.”

AT&T owned HBO and HBO Max until it spun off its WarnerMedia unit and sold it to Discovery in a deal that closed earlier this month.

In response to a question from an analyst, Stankey said he didn’t think that AT&T, as a broadband provider, could help streaming services control password-sharing.

“I don't think it's the broadband providers' role in making that happen,“ he said. “I think it’s the owner of the applications’ role in making that happen,” he said.

Stankey added that he didn’t think password control was a business AT&T wanted to get into.

“I don't necessarily expect that we'd be trying to work on a product or service to market back to other providers to say we can help you manage that,” he said. “I think there are adequate tools available in software and then how you manage your application to be able to do that. And I can tell you from our own experience, we feel like we've done that reasonably effectively in the interest of the product.” ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.