During his keynote presentation at the Mobile World Congress Americas show in Los Angeles, AT&T’s David Christopher emphasized a somewhat familiar refrain from the company: the future of mobile is video, and the future of video is mobile.
Christopher, who heads up both AT&T’s consumer mobility and entertainment businesses, started the session out by saying he didn’t want to talk about 5G (the unsurprisingly dominant topic at the wireless industry event) – even as the operator announced earlier in the week the five final cities where it will roll out mobile 5G service later this year.
Although AT&T is no stranger to video as a distributor with its DirecTV and DirecTV Now platforms, it now also boasts major media and content assets like HBO and Turner properties, through the recent close of its mega deal to acquire Time Warner.
Christopher’s emphasis on video also mirrors GSMA’s decision to add a new media and entertainment focus to this year’s event, as the convergence of mobile and entertainment has been a trend the organization has been seeing for multiple years now.
Christopher said when it comes to consumer viewing the message is clear: consumers like high premium content and want to be able to watch it where it’s convenient for them – which means mobile.
He also warned that if mobile players don’t engage these audiences – like those accounting for the 1 billion hours of content viewed on YouTube daily – they could miss out on a huge opportunity.
Christopher summed up three things he believes consumers want from engagement with entertainment – they want it to “be simple, social and real.” He also described some ways that AT&T is trying to satisfy that need.
For example, features including a DirecTV Now assistant that customers can text to set a recording later. He also showed the ability for customers to send a text link to a friend that brings them directly to the premium DirecTV content they want to share – not a link to a YouTube clip.
When it comes to the social component, he showed a section in the DirecTV Now app called “What your friends are watching.” There was also a clipping tool, where users can clip a 10-15 second clip directly from DirecTV Now content and send it to friends.
While there are other apps that do that now, Christopher said the difference is that this can be done with premium content.
AT&T has also invested in content like “@SummerBreak” and “Guilty Party,” which involve characters from the show interacting in real time with fans over social media, and thus address the “real” aspect of viewing. Christopher said the company has seen such a return on investment from Summer Break that they’ve now gone ahead with five seasons of it.
He also said the merger with what is now WarnerMedia will let AT&T “lean into this space even more.”
AT&T’s focus on content comes in comparison to rival Verizon, who has largely been talking up investments in its network and has pivoted away from video. Earlier this year Verizon shuttered its video platform Go90, which failed to gain traction.