Why you might end up seeing 20-minute 'Game of Thrones' episodes on your smartphone

“Game of Thrones” could be better for people to watch on their smartphones if it were produced in 20-minute episodes, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

“I’ll cause [HBO CEO Richard] Plepler to panic,” Stephenson said on Tuesday at J.P. Morgan’s Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, according to Variety. But “think about things like ‘Game of Thrones.’ In a mobile environment, a 60-minute episode might not be the best experience. Maybe you want a 20-minute episode.”

This statement is significant because it isn’t just a media exec riffing about the mobile revolution. AT&T is in the regulatory process of an $US85 million merger with Time Warner, HBO’s parent company. If it goes through — AT&T expects the deal to close by the end of 2017 — Stephenson will be the one who ultimately controls HBO.

Variety reported that Stephenson’s quote was underscoring a point that AT&T sees an opportunity to better wring profits out of Time Warner’s media properties using mobile. That’s a main pillar of the thesis driving AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, and its bid to become a next-generation media company. (AT&T has already made HBO free for its “Unlimited Plus” subscribers).

Stephenson has said before that he believes we are in the midst of a prolonged upswing in how much video entertainment we watch.

“We are going to be living in a world where video is pervasively in front of you,” Stephenson said at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference in December. Today the average person consumes five hours of video a day. “That seems amazing to me,” Stephenson said in December. But he said in 10-15 years, AT&T thinks people will watch nine hours per day.

Perhaps that’s one reason HBO is exploring a whopping five “Game of Thrones” spinoff shows.

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