AT&T loses monthly subscribers as media unit takes a hit from COVID-19

July 23 (Reuters) - AT&T Inc said on Thursday it lost monthly phone subscribers and suffered a $2 billion revenue decline from delayed movie releases and advertising shortfalls in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged its business.

The media and telecommunications company, which launched streaming service HBO Max in May, reported 36 million subscribers for both “HBO Max/HBO”. In the first quarter, HBO had about 33 million customers.

AT&T lost 151,000 postpaid mobile phone subscribers in the quarter, including about 338,000 customers who stopped paying but were kept on the network.

Analysts had expected the company to add 6,800 subscribers, according to research firm FactSet.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia segment has been reeling under production delays and had to postpone the release of Christoper Nolan’s highly-anticipated “Tenet” thrice as theater chains remained largely shut. Revenue in the unit fell 22.7% to $6.8 billion.

The company said it expects dividend payout ratio at the end of 2020 to be in the 60%s range and is aiming for the lower end of that range.

Total quarterly revenue fell nearly 9% to $41 billion. Analysts on average had expected $41.10 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. (Reporting by Neha Malara and Sheila Dang; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)