Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, told CNBC on Friday that he will remain chief executive officer through the end of this year. But beyond that, he refused to say whether he would stay or leave.
“I made a commitment last year that I would stay at least through 2020. So I will stay as CEO through 2020,” Stephenson said on “Squawk Box” from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament in California. “I’m not giving any indication beyond that. The board and I have to have that conversation, obviously.”
Under Stephenson’s stewardship, AT&T in 2018 bought Time Warner, which included Warner Bros. movie studios, Turner Broadcasting and HBO. The new business group, WarnerMedia, has undergone leadership changes since the acquisition.
Stephenson said that WarnerMedia, led by John Stankey, is doing well and looking forward to launching its HBO Max streaming video service in May. HBO Max will join an already crowded streaming field, which includes Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and Apple TV+. Comcast‘s NBCUniversal group, which includes CNBC, plans to launch a streaming service dubbed Peacock in July.
Addressing rumors about a possible “Friends” reunion special as part of the HBO Max offering, Stephenson told CNBC: “I read that too. We didn’t announce it. But yeah, there was some news yesterday that there maybe an episode created. But that was not our announcement.”
However, Stephenson pointed out: “We did pull in as you know all of the rights for ‘Friends.’ So we own all the rights for ‘Friends’ and ‘Big Bang Theory.’ We pulled those in in the fourth quarter. So those will obviously be stalwarts on our streaming platform in May.”
In July, WarnerMedia outbid Netflix, paying $425 million over five years for the streaming rights to “Friends,” which had been a big draw on Netflix since 2015 when that service paid $100 million for the streaming rights. In September, WarnerMedia bought the streaming rights for “The Big Bang Theory” and extended its television syndication deal on its TBS cable channel.