AT&T buys back full ownership of HBO in Latin America

The following press release is attributed to AT&T:

WarnerMedia to Take Full Ownership of HBO-Branded Services in Spanish-Speaking Latin America and the Caribbean, Including All HBO, Max, Cinemax and HBO Go Offerings
Brazil Excluded from Transaction and Upcoming Streaming Service at This Time

WarnerMedia has reached an agreement to buy Ole Communications’ minority stake in HBO Ole Partners, the joint venture between WarnerMedia and Ole Communications. When the transaction closes, WarnerMedia will own 100% of all HBO, MAX, Cinemax and HBO Go services in Spanish-speaking Latin America and the Caribbean. The ownership structure of HBO Brasil Partners, another joint venture between the companies that operates HBO in Brazil, is unaffected at this time. WarnerMedia and Ole Communications will continue their basic channel distribution business in Latin America.

The transaction is expected to be completed following the granting of relevant regulatory approvals. Upon completion, HBO Ole Partners will fall under the purview of Gerhard Zeiler, Chief Revenue Officer, WarnerMedia & President, WarnerMedia International Networks.

“We’re excited to own all of HBO Ole Partners, which operates one of the leading premium, subscription-based television networks in the region. The acquisition will allow us to bring localized versions of our upcoming U.S. streaming service HBO Max to consumers in Spanish speaking Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Zeiler. “We have the option to acquire the business in Brazil but are not doing so at this time. As we have said, additional, direct investment in Brazil is not currently attractive to us because of the existing regulatory uncertainty in the country. We support and remain optimistic about the ongoing efforts to amend the SeAC law to ensure the media industry has a clear and predictable regulatory framework that fosters investment and innovation.”

“WarnerMedia has been a great partner in Latin America and we are proud to have built the HBO-branded networks in the region together,” said Enrique Cusco, President and CEO of Ole Communications. “We are pleased that we will continue the business of distributing our great portfolio of basic channels in the market, a portfolio that includes Warner Channel and the channels of A+E Networks Latin America, NBCUniversal International Networks Spanish Latin America and Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

WarnerMedia and Ole Communications brought HBO programming services to the region for the first time when they founded the HBO Ole Partners joint venture in 1991 and launched a Spanish-language HBO-branded premium channel that same year. In 1994, a Portuguese language service was launched in Brazil.

Well I feel stupid

Hey, I bet you didn’t know that someone else had any ownership at all in HBO’s Latin operations. For sure I didn’t. It does seem like it was a fairly small stake. Obviously this whole arrangement predates WarnerMedia’s time as part of the AT&T family, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are other deals out there that we’ll find out over time.

After all, remember that WarnerMedia was originally started as Time magazine and Warner Bros. Studios, about 100 years ago. There’s a lot of history, including a short period when the whole thing — including TimeWarner Cable — was owned by AOL. I have a feeling that little tidbit of information isn’t going to be prominently featured on any corporate literature.

But, this is a good thing

We all wondered if AT&T was going to try to keep its Latin American operations healthy or try to spin them off after the DIRECTV purchase. After all, while this is a rapidly growing area, it is also a mess of unstable currencies and confusing laws. AT&T had originally planned to spin off its DIRECTV Latin operations but did stop that fairly quickly. Now it looks like they are more interested in building their Latin American operations back up and that’s some very good news. There’s a lot of money to be made there.