AT&T Pulls Plug on Audience Network, Which Will Become HBO Max Preview Channel

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Audience Network, which has been on shaky ground since parent company AT&T bought Time Warner (now called WarnerMedia) in 2018, will soon be no more.

AT&T said on Wednesday that it is pulling the plug on Audience Network, and will “transition” it this spring to a preview channel for HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, which will launch in May.

It is unclear what will happen to Audience’s original scripted series, including its highest-rated show, Mr. Mercedes, which was adapted from Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy of novels. A company spokesperson said the future of Audience’s shows will be assessed at a later date.

“We will begin to transition Audience Network from its current approach to support AT&T’s broader original content and marketing focus on the upcoming HBO Max service,” said Daniel York, chief content officer, AT&T Consumer, in a statement. “I am proud and grateful to the team at Audience for their many successes over the years, creating unique, fresh and provocative content along with our great studio partners.

Audience Network—which is available on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) and AT&T’s Watch TV skinny bundle (which is free for subscribers of AT&T’s Unlimited & More wireless plans)—was one of the company’s only entertainment properties prior to 2018’s purchase of Time Warner.

But AT&T never publicly explained how Audience Network fit in among its new portfolio of cable networks like HBO, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. Audience Network programming had also been excluded from the content slate of AT&T’s upcoming streaming service, HBO Max.

When asked about Audience Network’s future and how it fits in with AT&T’s other cable and streaming properties, Shane Elrod, head of original programming and production for the network, told Adweek last September that his network would continue to exist at least in the short term, but offered no other specifics: “As we move into 2020, Audience Network will continue to be a premium destination for quality content. We believe in the original entertainment that we are offering and feel it is a differentiator for our customers.”

Mr. Mercedes executive producer and director Jack Bender told Adweek last year that he hoped his series would end up on HBO Max, given that the DirecTV model is “a bit of an archaic formula” in today’s streaming universe.

“I only hope that we’ll be a part of that, or on some other streaming service. As much as DirecTV has let me make the show I wanted to make, which has been a luxury, you want it seen,” Bender said. “And it’s not, by enough people.”

In addition to Mr. Mercedes, Audience’s other original series include comedy Loudermilk and drama Condor, based on the novel Six Days of the Condor and the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor.

When Audience launched in 1999, it was called FreeView and focused on music and concerts. It rebranded as The 101 Network in 2005, and became Audience Network in 2010 as it expanded into scripted original series.



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