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AT&T half-launches WarnerMedia Ride

The launch of AT&T’s in-car streaming service was so quiet it’s almost as if it happened by mistake.

A WarnerMedia Ride profile is up and running on Twitter, but it isn’t tweeting anything. There is a link to the official Website in the profile’s description, but as of the time of writing, the link doesn’t go anywhere.

According to a report earlier this week by CNET, said Twitter account tweeted links to WarnerMedia Ride apps on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but that tweet appears to have been deleted and nothing has appeared since. You can however find the app for yourself on the App Store.

To clarify, WarnerMedia Ride isn’t a service that appears on an in-car infotainment system (yet, anyway). It is a free add-on offered to customers signed up to an AT&T In-Car Wi-Fi plan. The US telco has partnered with a whole host of car makers that equip their new vehicles with Wi-Fi hotspots that then backhaul over AT&T’s mobile network. Customers with an older car can retrofit it with a Harman Spark mobile Wi-Fi hotspot – available from AT&T’s online store – and go from there.

For a telco like AT&T, which has thrown buckets and buckets of cash at content in recent years, In-Car Wi-Fi gives it a captive audience at whom it can pitch a video-streaming service.

AT&T probably hopes that by bundling WarnerMedia Ride for free with In-Car Wi-Fi might persuade one or two customers to sign up to its struggling HBO Max video streaming service.

According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywall) last week, AT&T’s WarnerMedia arm is preparing to axe thousands of staff as part of a restructuring aimed at reducing costs by 20 percent. As usual, coronavirus has been blamed, this time for plunging movie ticket receipts, falling ad revenue and cancelled cable subscriptions.

Amid all the upheaval, its HBO Max streaming service has only managed to sign up around 4.1 million subscribers, according to the WSJ. By comparison, Disney+, which launched around six months before HBO Max came to market, has already notched up an audience of more than 60 million.

If AT&T’s confusing half-launch of WarnerMedia Ride is anything to go by, the telco isn’t about to stage a remarkable comeback in the content race any time soon.


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