HBO’s new corporate overlords at AT&T lit up an investors conference with a sick retail metaphor burn on the premium cable network’s arch-rival Netflix.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference early Wednesday when he declared, according to CNBC and others, “HBO is a very very unique asset. I think of Netflix kind of as the Walmart of [subscription video-on-demand services]. HBO is kind of the Tiffany.”
Ouch. Yet observers, as Variety noted, were quick to point out that Walmart is actually far bigger than Tiffany & Co (the big box retailer had $486 billion in revenue last year, vs. $4.2 billion in sales for the jewelry chain).
Of course, we all know that Stephenson wasn’t talking about revenue, but was rather poking at Netflix’s perceived quality of product as a service that produces more content than any company in the world. HBO likes to portray itself as a selective high-quality boutique compared to Netflix’s “throw everything at the wall” content bonanza. But if Emmy nominations are any indication, the two pretty shake out pretty eventually in terms of having a similar number of hugely acclaimed shows. (This year there were 112 Emmy nods for Netflix, and 108 for HBO.)
Walmart, by the way, has been exploring plans to launch its own streaming service, which would truly be the Walmart of streaming.
And what does all this make Hulu, exactly? The Bed Bath & Beyond of streaming?
During the call, Stephenson reiterated the company’s commitment to ramping up HBO’s programming slate, but also noted they were still going to be selective about projects.
“You’d like to fill out the schedule” on HBO, he said, according to Deadline. “But we’re not talking about Netflix-scale investments.”