WarnerMedia chief John Stankey has been in talks with former NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt about taking on a new role overseeing the company's creative content.

February 27, 2019 | San Francisco


Good morning. Randall Stephenson has prevailed in his legal battle against the Justice Department and can now finish integrating WarnerMedia into AT&T. The DOJ will not appeal.


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AT&T courts Bob Greenblatt


Moving the Market: AT&T/WarnerMedia chief John Stankey has been in talks with former NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt about taking on a new role overseeing the company's creative content, sources with knowledge of their discussions tell me.


• The exact details of the job are unclear, but it would include oversight of HBO, the sources said. That could be a source of friction for current HBO chief Richard Plepler.


• Greenblatt, who has produced television shows and theater productions, would want an active role in the creative process rather than an exclusively administrative job, the sources said.


• A WarnerMedia spokesperson declined comment. ... But THR's Kim Masters is hearing the same thing from her sources.


The Big Picture: The AT&T brass is looking to ramp up WarnerMedia's creative output as it goes head to head with the likes of Disney, Comcast and Netflix, but the telecom giant doesn't have a creative leader to oversee the portfolio. Greenblatt, who stepped down at NBC last year, is a rare free agent.


Greenblatt's success at NBC Entertainment is indisputable. He led the network to first-place in the 18-49 demo in primetime and to first place in total viewers for the first time in 16 years.


• He did so by betting early on shows like “The Voice," which became the highest-rated unscripted series, and “This Is Us,” which became the highest-rated drama.


The Big Question: What does it mean for Plepler? The HBO chief has led the network for six very successful years but is under significant pressure from Stankey to increase the creative output.


• Meanwhile, Recode's Peter Kafka reports that other WarnerMedia execs like CNN's Jeff Zucker and Turner's David Levy are "waiting to see who’s going to report to whom."


Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty

Mark Zuckerberg wants TV


Big in Menlo Park, big on Madison Avenue: Mark Zuckerberg is going head to head with traditional television networks for ad revenue, a move that could present new opportunities for ad buyers and new challenges for old media.


The Facebook TV ad plan:


• Facebook says it will participate in this year's Upfronts, the annual series of presentations that television networks make to prospective ad buyers.


• Facebook has unveiled Showcase, an ad sales program that enables buyers to purchase advertising for shows up to a year in advance.


• Facebook has unveiled Sponsorships, a program that allows advertisers to become exclusive sponsors for shows.


• Facebook says nearly 100 million U.S. users watch content across Watch, Newsfeed and Pages that is eligible for ad buys through In-Stream Reserve.


The Pitch, via Variety's Todd Spangler: "Facebook claims it can better reach younger-skewing audiences that have been disappearing from linear TV."


• "Over the past three months, 43% of Facebook users in the U.S. who watched In-Stream Reserve-eligible content on Facebook were 18-34. That’s compared with 28% of linear TV viewers in the age demo, per Nielsen."


Meanwhile, Facebook is adding new shows — including an Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron animated comedy, a Steph Curry docu-series, and reboots of MTV’s “The Real World” — while slashing two-thirds of its news shows because they are under performing.



On the privacy front, Facebook says it will introduce a "Clear History" feature later this year that will allow users to erase much of the personal data that is so valuable to advertisers.


• CFO David Wehner: The feature is “going to give us some headwinds in terms of being able to target as effectively as before."

📺 Rally the Market 📺


Owning the airwaves: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen plans to tell Congress that President Trump "made clear" he wanted him to lie to lawmakers about a Trump Tower project in Moscow.


• I guess BuzzFeed wasn't that far off after all.


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FTC launches tech task force


Moving on Monopolies: Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons is launching a Technology Task Force to monitor competition in the technology sector, a sign that the FTC may be getting more aggressive about policing Silicon Valley's biggest firms.


Simons: “The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day. As I’ve noted in the past, it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition."


The FTC says the task force will monitor both prospective technology mergers and "consummated technology mergers," indicating that previous deals will be subject to review.


How It's Playing, via Wired's Issie Lapowsky:


• "Critics say the creation of the task force is little more than an exercise in virtue signaling for a regulator that has lately failed to bring any meaningful action against tech monopolies."


Still ... "this news won’t likely be welcome to companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. All of them have consolidated their respective markets in recent years, and are already facing increasing calls for antitrust action from the public and members of Congress."

Market Links 


Daniel Ek launches Spotify in India amid WMG battle (Variety)


David Ellison is still getting hit for his John Lasseter hire (LAT)


The Obamas name Higher Ground's executive leaders (THR)


Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg launch a news podcast (TC)


Alberto Ibargüen launches American Journalism Project (AJP)



Jack Dorsey bans Jacob Wohl


Dept. of Content Policing: Twitter has banned infamous conservative activist Jacob Wohl after he admitted to creating fake accounts, my colleagues Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny report:


• "Wohl operated @Women_4_Schultz, which posed as a supporter of former Starbucks CEO and presidential hopeful Howard Schultz ... [and] two other banned Twitter accounts."


• In an interview with USA Today, Wohl said he created the fake profiles in order to "steer the left-wing votes in the primaries to what we feel are weaker candidates compared with Trump."


No good deed ... Twitter is receiving praise from many critics, but some, like Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffrey, are hitting the social media company for not taking action fast enough.



Forgetting Jeff Bezos


How quickly we move on ... Three weeks ago, Jeff Bezos insinuated that the President of the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may have been involved in a conspiracy to expose his extramarital affair and besmirch his reputation — yet he provided no hard evidence to support that theory.


Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos' girlfriend and the man accused of leaking the couple's racy texts to the National Enquirer, is adamant about making sure we don't lose sight of that.


Sanchez emails WaPo's Sarah Ellison:


• “My focus now is to encourage journalists to shift focus from the silly ‘whodunit’ drama and ‘anonymous’ sources to the mountain of real news involved in this sordid saga."


• “I’ve been accused by ‘anonymous’ sources and leaky ‘Amazon investigators’ of ... involvement in an international conspiracy theory involving President Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and conservative operatives trying to ‘take down’ Jeff Bezos. I haven’t dignified any of it because I know the whole truth."


• “It’s pretty simple: Jeff Bezos had an extramarital affair, lied about it in his tone-deaf ‘divorce’ tweet and has engaged in a scorched-earth campaign to cover up responsibility for the demise of two families and the failure to protect the privacy and technology of the man [who] practically owns the cloud..."


The Big Picture: Whatever you make of Sanchez — he's not the most reliable of sources, to be sure — he brings up an important question: Why did we let Bezos float an international conspiracy theory implicating two of the world's most powerful leaders ... then not demand any evidence?

What the Corner Office is Reading: "When the Bully Is the Boss," by NYT's Benedict Carey:


• "The research thus far has found no evidence to support the axiom that tougher bosses get better results."


See you tomorrow from Los Angeles.


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