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Stankey: New AT&T in ‘Battle for Customer Engagement’

AT&T’s WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey told CNN Monday (June 18) that as technology improves and provides more opportunities to consume content, the battle on the content front is for customer engagement.

“If you think about the battle we're in right now, it's a battle for customer engagement,” Stankey told CNN, also part of WarnerMedia, adding that while there are still a fixed number of hours in the day, technology could allow for more content consumption in that timeframe. “Our job is to figure out how to get our fair share.”

AT&T completed its $108.7 billion purchase of Time Warner on June 14, two days after it received approval from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. At that time, AT&T also changed Time Warner’s name to WarnerMedia.

Related: AT&T Completes Time Warner Purchase

In a memo to employees, Stankey said the name change was in part an homage to the Time Warner legacy and “allows some initial freedom and separation from the AT&T brand as we form and navigate a new presence in the entertainment industry.”

He added that company executives would be meeting with employees over the next few days in forums in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

"I look forward to meeting you and fielding your questions. I don’t expect that these sessions will answer all your questions," Stankey said in the memo. "But I hope they will start a dialogue and provide further insight on how the combined company might address industry challenges of consolidation, vertical integration, direct to consumer models, data/advertising innovation and globalization."

Key to the combined company's strategy will be content ownership, Stankey told CNN.

“If you can control your intellectual property, then you have the flexibility as to how you move it around your technology platforms,” Stankey told CNN, according to a transcript. “And this becomes even more important if you start thinking about the global dynamics of this industry and how it's going to evolve over time.”

Related: AT&T Time Warner Cleared to Merge

The Warner Media CEO echoed his boss, AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson in calling the linear TV business “mature,” but said there are new paths to monetize the old model, especially through targeted advertising.

In August, AT&T hired former GroupM executive Brian Lesser to head up its advertising efforts, whose purpose is to “start building the new ad formats and the more targeted advertising that can lower ad loads and still monetize content in a way where it remains affordable for the customer.”

Related: AT&T-Time Warner: Promises to Keep

While Lesser is a somewhat new face in the newly combined company, most of the former Time Warner management team would remain intact with a few notable exceptions. 

Time Warner chair and CEO Jeff Bewkes had already said he would resign from that post after the deal closed, but has agreed to stay on for a year to help with the transition. Turner CEO John Martin will resign, as will chief financial officer Howard Averill, EVP corporate marketing and communications Gary Ginsberg, chief human resources officer Karen Magee; EVP global public policy Carol Melton; and EVP international and corporate strategy Olaf Olafsson.

In the memo, Stankey laid out the new corporate structure as follows:

Corporate Executives:

  • Paul Cappuccio, executive vice president, Industry Policy and Government Affairs, WarnerMedia
  • Keith Cocozza, EVP, Communications and Public Relations, WarnerMedia
  • Jim Cummings, EVP/Chief Human Resources Officer, WarnerMedia
  • Pascal Desroches, CFO, WarnerMedia, and Turner Administrative Officer
  • Priya Dogra, EVP, Corporate & Business Development, WarnerMedia
  • Jim Meza, EVP/General Counsel, WarnerMedia

Division CEOs:

  • Richard Plepler: chair/CEO, HBO
  • Kevin Tsujihara, chair/CEO, Warner Bros.

Turner Executives:

  • David Levy, president, Turner
  • Gerhard Zeiler, president, Turner International
  • Jeff Zucker, president, CNN Worldwide