AT&T is about to give free TV to its wireless customers now that the Time Warner deal is done

Key Points
  • AT&T will be launching a "very, very skinny bundle" free to its mobile customers, says CEO Randall Stephenson.
  • People who are not AT&T wireless customers can buy the service for $15 a month on any platform, he says.
  • "There's going to be opportunities to distribute premium video like we never imagined," the CEO adds.
AT&T CEO: We’ll launch free mobile 'skinny' bundle next week

AT&T will be launching a "very, very skinny bundle" of television programming free to its mobile customers, Chairman and CEO told CNBC on Friday, a day after the company closed its $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner.

"We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered."

AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform."

The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts.

Some of the details around "AT&T Watch TV" came out in April, when Stephenson was giving testimony in federal court while fighting the Justice Department's attempt to block the Time Warner merger on anti-competitive grounds.

Judge Richard Leon ruled against the government on Tuesday, clearing the way for the deal to go through. On Thursday, the deal closed after the Justice Department said it would not apply for a stay. However, the DOJ could still appeal the judge's decision.

Stephenson also told CNBC on Friday that AT&T got its day in court and "the system worked," adding he does not fear government retribution.

In the coming years, he said, "There's going to be opportunities to distribute premium video like we never imagined."

"The tech companies are just demonstrating that to us. So we want to participate in this," he said, referring to Netflix and Amazon, which have been disrupting the media landscape by delivering original programming directly to users online.

That model, referred to over-the-top or OTT, has contributed to so-called cord-cutting, the trend of some television viewers bolting the traditional cable and satellite TV services and getting programming over the internet.

Since 2016, AT&T has been offering a lower-cost, smaller channel "DirecTV Now" service starting at $35 per month.

The AT&T-Time Warner merger puts together a vast number of businesses across many vertical industries. Time Warner's properties include Turner Broadcasting's CNN as well as HBO and the Warner Bros. movie and television studio. AT&T, the nation's second-largest wireless firm, also owns DirecTV and offers broadband internet service.

This week's federal court ruling in favor of AT&T is being seen as a mandate for other media mergers. But Stephenson said he's unsure how or whether the AT&T situation should apply to other proposed deals in the media industry, echoing the judge's ruling.

"The temptation by some to view this decision as being something more than a resolution of this specific case should be resisted by one and all!" Leon said.

WATCH full interview with AT&T's Randall Stephenson

Watch CNBC's full exclusive interview with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson