Executive: HBO Max Using Netflix as Benchmark for International Expansion

When in doubt, emulate your competition. That seemed to be the gist of a keynote presentation by Johannes Larcher, head of HBO Max International, at the MipTV confab in Cannes, France.

Speaking April 5 at the global media event, Larcher said Netflix’s reported $12 billion content spending in 2021 is projected to top $21 billion in 2026. The executive, who joined WarnerMedia in 2020, contends that exponential growth in spending would help Netflix skyrocket its international footprint from 147 million subscribers last year to an estimated 266 million subs in the next four years.

“[That] $9 billion [in] additional programming dollars buys a lot of content,” Larcher said. “That buys you almost 700 episodes of ‘The Crown,’ 50 Spider Man: No Way Home movies. That ability to spend more on content on behalf of [subscribers] drives the need to go global.”

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And how does that relate to HBO Max?

Larcher said Max, which ended 2021 with 27 million subs outside the U.S., is now available in 61 territories globally after launching last month in 15 new European countries, including the Netherlands, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The streamer is set to launch operations later this year in Turkey, Greece, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There are also plans for further expansion to Southeast Asia.

Notably absent: the U.K., France and Germany, which are still contracted to existing HBO pay-TV distribution deals.

“That’s why all of us [streamers] desire to go global,” Larcher said, adding that Max is upping its European original content production from 10 programs in 2019, to 40 shows by 2023. “There are slight variations on how we position our brand market by market.”

The executive said he believes that with the April 11 completion of Discovery’s minority stake, majority control acquisition of WarnerMedia, the new Warner Bros. Discovery company will help Max reach its international growth objectives.

“It will diversify our content, our service,” Larcher said of the deal that will combine Max with the Discovery+ SVOD service. “We have a shared vision of what the product should be in terms of packaging and how we go to market.”

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