AT&T sees connected device growth as it transforms into media powerhouse

AT&T’s got a mixed bag of results this quarter. 

Stephen Shankland/Techhnews

AT&T’s transformation into a media company isn’t going to be easy. 

The telecom provider, which has placed big bets in media with its acquisition of DirecTV and Time Warner, posted a mixed bag with strong third-quarter results from its rebrand WarnerMedia segment, but lost traditional television customers. 

WarnerMedia saw revenue rise 6.5 percent to $8.2 billion, with HBO’s subscription revenue rising and success from Crazy Rich Asians. But the company saw a 346,000 net decline in traditional video, despite a gain of 49,000 customers in its DirecTV Now streaming service. 

On the core wireless side, AT&T boasted that it added 3.4 million accounts in the US, but that was mostly driven by connected devices like cars or the Apple Watch, and a gain of 481,000 prepaid phone customers. It added 69,000 postpaid phone customers, or people  who pay their bills at the end of the month and generally boast higher credit scores. 

The wide range of results is part of the new status quo of AT&T, which has undergone this transformation from a purely telecom company into a media powerhouse. The company is betting heavily on the move to streaming services, having offered two options — DirecTV Now and AT&T Watch — on top of the various streaming services tied directly to core properties like HBO. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he plans to launch another one next year

AT&T is eager to talk about its media properties as competition in its core wireless business continues to be fierce. The company has been among the big losers as T-Mobile and Sprint have mounted their comebacks, picking customers away from the bigger players. 

In Mexico, AT&T added 907,000 wireless subscribers to bring its base up to 17.3 million, with revenue rising 2.6 percent over a year ago.

Its media and advertising business, which last month was rebranded Xandr (a reference to Alexander Graham Bell), saw revenue rise 33.6 percent over a year ago. 

The company posted a third-quarter profit of $4.72 billion, or 65 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier gain of $3.12 billion, or 49 cents a share, when Time Warner wasn’t a part of the company yet. 

Excluding one-time charges, the company earned 90 cents a share, while revenue rose 15.3 percent to $45.74 billion. 

Analysts expected AT&T to earn 94 cents a share on revenue of $45.65 billion, according to Yahoo Finance. 

AT&T shares fell 2.3 percent to $32.27 in pre-market trading.

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