Sep 25, 2018

AT&T CEO says no evidence Trump's dislike for CNN will impact future deals

Photo: Randall Stephenson/Axios

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says he hasn't seen any indiction that President Trump's dislike for CNN will impact future AT&T deals or regulation, explaining at the company's Relevance Conference Tuesday, "so far we've seen no evidence that that's the case... the contest is over and it seems that everybody is moving on."

Why it matters: President Trump's opposition to AT&T's historic $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner was met with criticism due to his outward distaste for CNN. A sitting U.S. president is not supposed to meddle with regulatory affairs at independent agencies like the Justice Department.

"One thing everyone must concede is that this president, when he makes a commitment, he tends to follow through with it."
— Stephenson

Asked about his personal feelings on CNN and the press, Stephenson doubled down on his commitment to freedom of the press and said CNN was good for business.

  • "More freedom of the press holds the government accountable ... The full weight and resources of AT&T will be committed to protecting 1st Amendment rights wherever our people operate."
  • "News is one of the areas we want to be very prominent... This is a business area, live premium content, live sports and news."

Stephenson, who is now getting into the media business with the acquisition of Time Warner, says the media industry has been too slow to innovate.

  • Citing previous experiences at corporate giants like Boeing, he says he's been surprised by how reluctant the media industry is to adapt. "I don't think they move at all," calling the media industry "very slow."

The AT&T chief also dished on some of his views on privacy, advertising, and the future of HBO.

  • He argues that TV ads need to get smarter: "I think advertising is really smart in half of the world. The digital half is really good, it's very targeted... If you look at the [TV side] premium video, it looks nothing like that. The advertising is not incredibly targeted... We actually believe that if you can make the premium video side behavior, look, operate like the video side that people will invest more."
  • He says expect more capital to be allocated to HBO slowly: "We're not trying to make HBO into Netflix... We're all competing for customer engagement... I do believe it's going to require a little more investment."
  • Stephenson said we need national regulation on privacy and he suggested that we need one regulator to oversee it. "In my opinion, the FTC [should regulate it.] They have the tools. You own it, you regulate it and set one set of rules."

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to less than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."