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May 20, 2019, 8:32 p.m. EDT

‘Game of Thrones’ fiasco: Shareholders would have a good case to sue in court

HBO’s parent, AT&T, shamefully threw away a valuable asset for no reason

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By Brett Arends, MarketWatch


Helen Sloan/HBO

No, the final season of “Game of Thrones” wasn’t a disappointment.

It was an insult.

This fiasco was, of course, an insult to the tens of millions of fans who had invested so much time and energy in this series over eight extraordinary years.

But in a more tangible sense, it was also an insult to the many more who own stock in HBO’s parent company, AT&T /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.43%  If you have money in a regular U.S. index fund, that includes you.

AT&T’s management has just needlessly thrown away a prize asset for no good reason whatsoever. Imagine the Empire State Realty Trust /zigman2/quotes/204686725/composite ESRT -0.19% knocking down the Empire State Building “before people get tired of it.” Or Tiffany /zigman2/quotes/209249105/composite TIF +0.67% canceling its line of engagement rings to “move on.”

This was like setting fire to a pile of money. Your money.

Laziness? Incompetence? Stupidity? You make the call. This must be the dumbest move since Coca-Cola’s /zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite KO -0.45%  New Coke.

HBO now says it’s working on new programs based on “Game of Thrones.” Well, good luck. But those will be a poor replacement, even if they materialize.

The company wouldn’t need a replacement if it continued the original show. And the question now is whether the franchise has much magic left anyway.

The final season was a disaster. Talk about blowing an opportunity. Never have so many exciting characters met such boring deaths. Never have so many brilliant possibilities been thrown away. Never has so much time, money and talent been wasted mailing something in.

It took them two years to make this?

How fitting that someone accidentally left a Starbucks coffee cup in one scene and a couple of water bottles in another. Did anyone actually watch this thing before broadcasting?

A few diehard fans are defending how the series ended. But almost no one is praising it.

Class-action lawsuit?

The only question that remains now is whether some enterprising limo-chasing lawyer is going to file a class-action suit against the company on behalf of the stockholders.

Don’t rule it out.

Stephenson specifically cited the value of “Game Of Thrones” when he announced his company’s massive $85 billion takeover of HBO’s parent company, Time Warner, in 2016.

The takeover deal would be a “game-changer” for AT&T because of Time Warner’s “marquee businesses, including HBO,” and “blockbuster shows like ‘Game of Thrones,’ ” he wrote to all of AT&T’s employees at the time.

/zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 32.44
+0.14 +0.43%
Volume: 20.53M
June 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
12.13
Dividend Yield
6.29%
Market Cap
$236.09 billion
Rev. per Employee
$637,332
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/zigman2/quotes/204686725/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 15.59
-0.03 -0.19%
Volume: 1.68M
June 18, 2019 4:02p
P/E Ratio
43.01
Dividend Yield
2.69%
Market Cap
$2.69 billion
Rev. per Employee
$889,971
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/zigman2/quotes/209249105/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 91.46
+0.61 +0.67%
Volume: 0.00
June 18, 2019 4:01p
P/E Ratio
19.71
Dividend Yield
2.54%
Market Cap
$11.05 billion
Rev. per Employee
$312,824
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/zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 50.64
-0.23 -0.45%
Volume: 9.22M
June 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
32.26
Dividend Yield
3.16%
Market Cap
$218.89 billion
Rev. per Employee
$506,342
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