WarnerMedia revealed that HBO Max will debut in May 2020 in the U.S., marketed heavily through parent company AT&T’s existing customer base.
HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s multibillion-dollar bet it can lure consumers into a big new tent at an increasingly crowded streaming bazaar. The new details come just ahead of two other new subscription VOD arrivals — Apple TV Plus (Nov. 1) and Disney Plus (Nov. 12) — with everyone angling to claim territory dominated today by Netflix.
WarnerMedia already revealed that HBO Max will be free for one year to HBO subscribers who have one of AT&T’s TV services, a promo designed to get early buzz going.
“General entertainment streaming is the next great opportunity to aggregate and grow audience,” John Stankey, AT&T’s COO and WarnerMedia’s CEO, said at the company’s splashy media event Tuesday from Warner Bros.’ lot in Burbank.
By 2025, the company believes it can notch 75 million-90 million HBO Max subscribers, including 50 million in the U.S., Stankey said, eyeing the promotional power of its 170 million existing AT&T wireless, broadband and TV customers.
Stankey didn’t reveal pricing in his table-setting remarks at the start of the event, which kicked off at 3 p.m. PT, with those details expected later in the presentation.
AT&T plans to “aggressively market” HBO Max through all its consumer touchpoints for the launch, Stankey said. Out of the gate, HBO Max will be bundled with AT&T TV, the telco’s live TV internet streaming product essentially designed as a replacement for DirecTV. In 2021, the company plans to introduce an ad-supported version of HBO Max, which also will be bundled with AT&T TV.
At launch, HBO Max promises to have some 10,000 hours of premium content. The lineup includes the full complement of HBO’s programming along with new original series available only on HBO Max, licensed TV shows and movies, and library material from WarnerMedia’s properties including Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, and Cartoon Network.
As previously announced, HBO Max is getting its hands on the entire runs of “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Pretty Little Liars”; the full library of “Sesame Street” as well as the next five seasons; and CW dramas produced by Warner Bros. starting with the fall 2019 season (30 days prior to the TV premiere of the next seasons of the shows). Movies on the service will include all films in “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” franchises — and in year one, titles from DC Entertainment will join them, including every Superman and Batman movie. Recently released hit “The Joker” will be available at launch.
Underscoring HBO Max’s focus on “content that matters to viewers,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TBS, TNT, and truTV, said the top 100 titles on a streaming service drive half the total usage. Translation: HBO Max is focused on quality, not raw tonnage of content.
AT&T told investors Monday that it expects to spend $1.5 billion to $2 billion on HBO Max next year and invest a billion in each of the following two years, before hitting profitability in 2024.
After the initial U.S. launch, AT&T will take HBO Max international — in 2021, it plans to debut localized versions of HBO Max in Latin America and Europe, according to Stankey.
It’s unclear how the so-called streaming wars will shake out, but Netflix investors in particular have been unnerved at the prospect of competition with content powerhouses like WarnerMedia, Disney and NBCUniversal. Some analysts believe it’s not a zero-sum game, with room for several big streamers to gain traction — likely at the expense of pay television.
HBO Max Set to Launch in May 2020