Communicating Strategy at HBO

A New York Times article gives us a window into how leaders are telling employees about the future of HBO. The article describes a town hall meeting John Stankey, an AT&T executive, held for about 150 employees. When AT&T acquired Time Warner in 2016, HBO was part of the deal, so employees are likely anxious to know the company's plans. The Times article describes the meeting as "a straight-shooting, hourlong talk."

Stankey communicated a clear theme throughout his talk: increasing viewer engagement: 

We need hours a day. It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.

Perhaps understandably, the talk may have included some contradictions. Here are two subsequent paragraphs in the Times article:

They pledged to take a hands-off approach to the company’s crown jewel, HBO, which has won endless Emmys while generating billions in profits.

But the town hall meeting suggested that AT&T would not be a passive corporate parent.

Attempting to quell employees' fears about layoffs, Stankey noted the lack of duplication between HBO and AT&T.


  • How do you explain the two statements above? How might HBO employees perceive the talk?
  • Read more in the article. What else strikes you as important from an employee perspective?
  • Overall, how transparent would you describe the executive's approach?
  • What are the advantages and drawbacks of a town hall meeting? What other communication channels would be helpful during an acquisition?