29th May 2020

POV: HBO Max

Background:

HBO has launched its highly anticipated OTT service HBO Max in the US, giving on demand access to HBO and WarnerMedia’s catalogue of award-winning shows for $14.99 per month.

Details and Implications:

Ever since AT&T moved into the entertainment arena through the acquisition of Time Warner in 2018 (renaming it WarnerMedia in the process), it has been on the cards that a significant streaming player could be heading into the US and international markets.

WarnerMedia-owned HBO is world renowned for its creation of premium TV content, from The Sopranos to Game of Thrones to Westworld. Now those shows and many more have been wrapped up in to an on-demand streaming service which is priced at the same level as the subscription to the HBO cable service - $14.99 per month. The $14.99 per month launch price is above that of streaming competitors Netflix ($9 for cheapest tier) or the more recently launched Disney+ ($7 per month) but HBO couldn’t go below the launch price without violating contracts that it holds with the cable providers of its existing services.

The global pandemic has forced the launch to take a different shape than it otherwise would have, not least the lack of the big Friends reunion show that millions of fans had been hoping for and also a delayed and reduced slate of new programming caused by the difficulties of production presently.

Despite this, HBO Max has a significant catalogue of shows on launch and also the backing of AT&T, which has pledged to invest $4bn over the next three years. That investment will be both for new original content programming and also the revenues that would have been made from licensing WarnerMedia TV shows and movies to outside players that will now be channelled through HBO Max.

There is no ad-supported element in the service offering upon launch, but with the service costing almost double some of its rivals it is not unreasonable to expect some kind of tiered pricing model or an ad supported service could be in the pipeline as HBO Max looks to expand it viewership base.

There are 10,000 hours of shows on launch including Premium Max Originals such as scripted comedy Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick; Sundance 2020 Official Selection feature documentary On the Record; underground ballroom dance competition series Legendary; Craftopia, hosted by YouTuber LaurDIY; the all-new Looney Tunes Cartoons, from Warner Bros. Animation and Sesame Workshop’s The Not Too Late Show with Elmo.

In addition, HBO Max will feature the extensive WarnerMedia back catalogue portfolio of programming and acquisitions that includes Friends; The Big Bang Theory; (new) Doctor Who; Rick and Morty; The BachelorSesame Street; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; South Park, Gossip Girl, The West Wing and many more.

Summary:

More expensive than competitors but with a huge back catalogue and a strong track record in original content production, HBO Max is set to be a big player in the streaming wars. However, with Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon’s Prime Video already in global markets, there is a big battle ahead for share of consumers’ subscription wallet.

Further Reading:

AT&T Press Release | CNET | TechCrunch | Variety

Mindshare Global
Mindshare Global