HBO Max Launches — With More Than 10,000 Hours of Content

WarnerMedia’s much-hyped subscription streaming video service — HBO Max — launches today (May 27) as the most-expensive over-the-top video platform ($14.99) and last to join a crowded SVOD market dominated by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney-owned Hulu  and  Disney+.

“Today we are proud to introduce Max — a dream that was created and nurtured by an incredible team of talented executives who dedicated the last year-and-a-half to making it a reality for consumers nationwide,” Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, said in a statement.

The service, which will include a less-expensive ad-supported option, bows with more than 10,000 hours of content targeting as wide an audience (kids included) as possible — unlike traditional HBO, HBO Go or HBO Now.

Among the movies featured on the new service: all eight films in the “Harry Potter” franchise.

“There’s got to be more frequent [viewer] engagement,” John Stankey, who will soon succeed Randall Stephenson as AT&T CEO, said during Max’s media unveiling last October.

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That means HBO’s “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” viewership has to expand to include families seeking libraries of Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Hanna-Barbera content, in addition to re-runs of “Friends,” which WarnerMedia paid $425 million to itself (Warner Bros. Television) for exclusive streaming rights. A big-budget re-union special episode was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic shuttering production.

Backed by a $4.8 billion war chest over the next several years (relatively small compared to Netflix’s reported $17 billion spend this year alone), with plans to secure 50 million subscribers by 2025, Max is setting itself a high bar for achievement — or failure.

Max is also appealing to DC comics fans with pledges to release every Batman movie on the platform, in addtion to Aquaman and Wonder Woman, among others. This strategy puts Max at odds with DC Universe, the $8 monthly streaming service that features a slew of original series. Currently only “Doom Patrol” is migrating over to Max.

“The competition is actually more about content than anything else, and whatever’s on Max is not going to be available to Netflix or Disney+,” Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said.

Pachter contends that with the HBO brand already available to about 140 million households, it’s just a matter of time before a percentage of them migrate. Max is now available to existing HBO and HBO Now subs at no extra cost.

Pachter said the only question is how many households will keep pay-TV in a global recession due to the virus pandemic.

“My guess is that conventional HBO loses a lot of subscribers (probably 5 million) over the next year or so, while Max adds 2 – 3 x that many, so net, they probably grow from 140 million to 150 million subs,” he said.

Indeed, HBO Now direct-billed subs, as well as those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum and Verizon Fios Internet get access to Max at no extra cost, with the Now app automatically updating to the Max app on supported devices.

Current HBO subs who are direct-billed through AT&T, AT&T TV, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse TV, Cox, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios TV and select independent cable, broadband, and telco providers through the NCTC like WOW!, Atlantic Broadband, RCN and MCTV, among others, also have access to Max at no extra cost.

All that is required is downloading the Max app and then electing to access the service on supported devices or via desktop and log in using an existing provider’s username and password.

Notably missing from Max’s debut: distribution via Amazon Fire TV (and Amazon Prime Channels) and Roku — the latter with more than 40 million subs. The platforms have traditionally been key for third-party OTT launches — including HBO Now, which generated much of its 8 million sub base through Amazon and Roku.

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Amazon and Roku typically take a cut of subscription revenue, in addition to keeping control of user data, among other conditions.

“While we don’t typically comment on specific deal terms or negotiations, the fact is that in this instance while we believe that HBO Max would benefit greatly from distribution on Roku at launch, we do not currently have an agreement in place,” a spokesperson for the streaming media device manufacturer told Lightshed Partners’ Richard Greenfield earlier this month.

“These guys are going to divide up the [pay-TV] world … I expect some to count ‘only’ domestic subscribers [in the beginning], so it’s going to be noisy,” Pachter said.

HBO Go Available as Standalone Service in Indonesia

WarnerMedia Entertainment Feb. 12 announced that its HBO Go service is now available in Indonesia as a standalone streaming service. The app is accessible on HBOGoAsia.com and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play Store for IDR60,000 ($4) a with a seven-day free trial.

The HBO Go app, which launched in Indonesia in 2019 continues to be an on-demand platform for HBO via pay-TV operators Telkomsel’s Maxstream, First Media and IndiHome. It was a pre-cursor to HBO Now (and pending HBO Max) in the United States.

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“Thanks to our local distribution partners, the app has already got off to a flying start in Indonesia,” said Clement Schwebig, managing director of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, Southeast Asia, Pacific and China, which operates HBO in Asia. “Through HBO Go, viewers can watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies and series — as well as Asian content — anytime, anywhere.”

A number of HBO Asia Originals have been filmed in Indonesia, with local cast and crews. For example, award-winning Joko Anwar directed both “Halfworlds” and “Folklore”; Reza Rahadian and Arifin Putra star in “Halfworlds”; Adinia Wirasti appears in both “Halfworlds” and “Grisse”; and Alexandra Gottardo has roles in “Grisse” and “Food Lore.”

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HBO Go allows subscribers unlimited access to stream thousands of hours of non-stop and uncut entertainment from the latest first-run Hollywood movies and exclusive original content from HBO, HBO Asia and Cinemax, to Asian movies, series and all-time favorite kids’ programs over multiple connected devices.

Within the app, the live TV function can stream six of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks’ channels: HBO, HBO Signature, HBO Hits, HBO Family, Cinemax and Red By HBO. Each HBO Go account can be viewed on two concurrent streams across five registered devices and the service has Airplay and Chromecast functionality.

In Asia, HBO Go is also available in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and will be launching in more territories with additional partners soon.

 

Analyst: Amazon Fire TV Users Prefer Streaming Netflix

Amazon Fire TV and Roku continue to spearhead the streaming media device market in the United States and select foreign markets. New data from Ampere Analysis contends Roku has a key leadership position in both the U.S. and in Canada — although Amazon is “hot on Roku’s heels” in both countries.

While Fire TV is the leading device in many of Amazon’s retail markets and has a market share of over 40% in both Germany and Japan, it still trails Roku in the U.S. Indeed, among domestic Fire TV users, the slight majority prefer to stream Netflix than Prime Video.

Ownership of Google Chromecast is high in the Nordics and Netherlands, which lack any serious Amazon retail presence. Google has over 50% market share in Netherlands and Denmark.

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Device owners show subtle differences in the streaming services they rely on, reflecting device owner strategies, interfaces and the products they promote.

Although Netflix is still the key service for Fire TV owners in the U.S., Amazon device homes are more likely to subscribe to Prime Video and HBO Now compared to Roku device owners.

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By contrast, Roku device owners show a slight skew towards Hulu and Netflix compared to Fire TV households.

Finally, Sweden tops all countries for household streaming media device penetration at 55%. That compares to Denmark, the U.K. and U.S. at 51% household penetration.

“More than any other sector, the streaming adapter market is a competitive battleground for companies with wildly different strategic imperatives — ranging from Amazon and the support which Fire TV provides for its retail operations, Apple and its high-end device ecosystem, Google and its advertising businesses, and Roku and its mix of monetization mechanisms,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere Analysis, said in a statement.

 

AT&T Outlines How It Will Jumpstart HBO Max Subscriptions

In the rush to validate expensive forays into proprietary over-the-top video distribution, media/tech giants such as Disney and Apple have partnered with third-party vendors and/or leaned on subsidiaries to boost subscriber retention.

HBO is no different.

During AT&T’s Jan. 29 fiscal call, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, who is also president and COO of the telecom parent, disclosed details how company plans to support the May debut of HBO Max — the SVOD platform company executives contend is better than the competition, including Netflix.

Indeed, AT&T said it bypassed $1.2 billion in fourth-quarter ($2.8 billion in annual) revenue forgoing third-party licensing of Warner Bros. Television properties “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” among other shows, in advance of the Max launch.

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AT&T is going to give Max free to existing HBO subs through DirecTV and AT&T U-verse — or about 10 million consumers. The number is significant, since that’s the tally Disney said it generated in the first 24 hours after launching Disney+, assisted in part by a promotion with Verizon affording the telecom’s data subs with a free year of service.

Apple, which reportedly already has more than 33 million Apple TV+ subs, is giving a free year of service with any new purchase of an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch.

Meanwhile, the eight million HBO Now subs (currently paying the identical $14.99 Max fee) will be automatically eligible for a Max upgrade without cost provided they do not access the OTT service through third-party platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Channels, Google Chromecast or Hulu, among other devices.

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AT&T will also incentivize its “highest ARPU” wireless subscribers with promotional Max offerings, in addition to foot traffic at any of the telecom’s 5,500 branded retail locations in the U.S.

“It’s a great opportunity to improve our overall churn [subscriber retention], which we’ve seen happen from giving HBO to current unlimited [wireless] customers,” Stankey said.

“With Max, we’ll offer consumers more than twice the amount of programming for the same price as HBO today,” he added.

Stankey said going forward HBO’s 34 million domestic linear subscribers should expect to see more generalized entertainment content, including unscripted reality shows, news and sports.

“It’s an important dance and choreography [with linear TV distributors] that we have to do to get right,” he said. “And we feel we’re positioned very well to make that happen.”

 

Ex-HBO Boss Inks 5-Year Apple TV+ Production Deal

In a move to jumpstart its branded subscription streaming video service, Apple has reportedly signed a five-year production deal with Richard Plepler, former CEO of HBO.

Under the deal ironed out by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, Apple’s joint heads of video, Plepler’s company, Eden Productions, will create original series, movies and documentaries for Apple TV+. The $4.99 service launched Nov. 2, 2019, with fewer than a dozen original programs.

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“I’m excited to work with Zack, Jamie and the standout team at Apple who have been deeply supportive of my vision for Eden from day one,” Plepler said in a statement. “The shows that Zack and Jamie produced, ‘The Crown’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ are among those I most admired. Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter.”

Plepler, who helped launched subscription streaming video platform HBO Now in 2015, ran HBO for 28 years — a career that saw the premium channel produce myriad high-profile shows, including “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “True Detective,” “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” “Oz,” “Sharp Objects,” “Westworld,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Big Love,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Sex and the City,” “Veep,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” “Chernobyl,” “Band of Brothers,” “Barry” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” among others.

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Plepler stepped down from his position shortly after AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner, creating WarnerMedia, headed by John Stankey.

Average U.S. Home Streaming Bundle Sweet Spot: $20-$21

With the field of subscription streaming video services growing, new data shows the average U.S. household would spend $20 to $21 monthly for combined platforms — slightly more than 20% of the average pay-TV bundle ($96.18).

Soda.com, in a survey of 1,000 consumers who stream video in the home conducted Nov. 7-9, 2019, found the majority (32%) of respondents would pay $20 or more monthly for combined streaming services, while 30% would prefer not to bundle services and 14% would not pay more than $10 for a bundle.

Notably, 44% of respondents said they use two or more streaming services per week.

With SVOD services ranging from $4.99 for Apple TV+ to $15 for HBO Max, which launches in May, consumers are faced with the challenge of mixing and matching services or prioritizing services based on the user’s favorite content.

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Netflix is projecting 61.2 million domestic subscribers at the end 2019, with actual figures to be released later this month. That’s more than 80% of the combined tally predicted for Hulu (28.5 million), Apple TV+ (10 million), Disney+ (15 million), CBS All Access (8 million), HBO Now (8 million) and ESPN+ (3.5 million), according to CNBC.

In August 2019, there were about 86.5 million traditional pay-TV households — a number that is projected to drop to 73 million by 2023, according to Statista. Most pay-TV subs continue their subscriptions based on habit, premium channels and sports.

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The survey contends Netflix remains the best overall streaming service followed by YouTube TV. Sports fans favored sports-themed fubo TV or ESPN+, whiles families sought Amazon Prime Video (Prime membership and free shipping) and Disney+.

Movie fans chose HBO Now (soon HBO Max) and Hulu, while budget-minded respondents opted for Sling TV and Hoopla.

 

Amazon Prime Channels Launches in Mexico

Amazon has expanded its Prime Channels video platform to Mexico, affording members in the country access to third-party subscription streaming video services.

Launched in 2015 in the United States, Prime Channels is an attempt to thwart online TV and pay-TV by offering Prime subscribers direct access to alternative streaming services.

The platform has been credited helping SVOD services such as HBO Now, StarzPlay, Cinedigm’s Dove Channel, CBS’ Showtime OTT, BritBox and Viacom’s Paramount+ generate sustainable subscriber bases.

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“We are excited to bring even more selection to our Prime members in Mexico with the launch of Prime Video Channels,” Greg Hart, VP of Amazon Prime Video, said in a statement. “By simplifying our customers’ entertainment experience all within the Prime Video app, we can make it even easier for them to select, subscribe and enjoy their favorite TV shows and movies from our channel providers.”

Amazon Prime Channels is also available in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Japan and Canada.

 

HBO Now Unveils September Slate

HBO Max may be coming, but in the meantime there’s HBO Now, WarnerMedia’s four-year-old subscription streaming video service with more than 5 million subs.

The SVOD in September rolls out a new slate of movies, including Warner Bros.’ Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s  Mary Queen of Scots with Margot Robbie and Saorise Ronan, Welcome to Marwen, and teen thriller Truth or Dare.

This fall also kicks off the third seasons of drama “The Deuce” and anthology series “Room 104,” as well as a new episode of “The Shop: Uninterrupted.”

HBO Documentary Films commemorates the tragic events of September 11, 2001 with the debut of two documentaries, In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 and the children’s show, What Happened on September 11.

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Meanwhile,  Mean Girls, Deadpool 2, Rampage, Splice and Breaking In depart the SVOD at the end of the month.

Theatrical Premieres:
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, 2019 (9/1)
Truth or Dare, 2018 (9/4)
Mary Queen of Scots, 2018 (9/7)
Welcome to Marwen, 2018 (9/14)
They Shall Not Grow Old, 2018 (9/17)
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, 2019 (9/21)
Isn’t It Romantic, 2019 (9/28)
Original Programming:
The Shop: Uninterrupted (9/3)
In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 (9/11)
What Happened on September 11 (9/11)

Original Programming:
“The Shop: Uninterrupted” (9/3)
“In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11” (9/11)
“What Happened on September 11” (9/11)
Season Premieres:
“The Deuce, Season 3” Premiere (9/9)
“Room 104, Season 3” Premiere (9/13)

Season Finale:
“Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders, Season Finale” (9/3)
“A Black Lady Sketch Show, Season 1 Finale” (9/6)

Estrenos:
Ruta Viva, 2018 (9/1)
El Amor Menos Pensado (AKA An Unexpected Love), 2018 (9/6)
Más Sabe el Diablo por Viejo, 2018 (9/13)
Septimo (AKA 7th Floor), 2018 (9/20)
Perseguida (AKA Persecuted), 2018 (9/27)

Starting September 1:
127 Hours, 2010
Alfie, 2004
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, 2004
Anastasia, 1997
Boys and Girls, 2000
Cabin Fever (Director’s Cut), 2003
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (Extended Version), 2019
Catfish, 2010
The Darkest Hour, 2011
Frantic, 1988
Hail, Caesar!, 2016
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 2003
The Hurt Locker, 2009
I Love You Phillip Morris, 2010
Jem and the Holograms, 2015
The Killing Fields, 1984
Love Actually, 2003
Out of Sight, 1998
Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 2004
Robocop (Director’s Cut), 1987
Robocop 2, 1990
Robocop 3, 1993
The Rundown, 2003
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, 2004
Thirteen Days, 2000
United 93, 2006
The Wizard, 1989

Ending September 5:
The Water Diviner, 2015

Ending September 22:
The Green Inferno, 2015

Ending September 25:
Suffragette, 2015

Ending September 27:
Just Wright, 2010

 

Penultimate ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Sets Series Viewership Record

The next-to-last “Game of Thrones” episode, titled “The Bells,” was watched May 12 by a record 18.4 million viewers across HBO’s linear, TV Everywhere (HBO Go) and SVOD platform HBO Now, exceeding the previous series high of 17.8 million viewers for the April 28 episode, “The Long Night,” focusing on the Battle of Winterfell.

The 9 p.m. airing reached a time-period high with an average of 12.5 million viewers, surpassing the season seven finale of 12.1 million viewers. The final season eight is averaging 43 million viewers per episode in gross audience, an increase of more than 10 million viewers compared to season seven.

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‘Apple Channels’ Platform Launches Offering Access to Third-Party Streaming Services

Apple May 13 has formally launched “Apple Channels,” an app enabling users access to third-party subscription streaming services such as HBO Now, Showtime OTT and Lionsgate-owned Starz, among others.

The platform mimics Amazon Prime Channels, which bowed in 2015 offering Prime members direct access to HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Dove Channel, Acorn TV, Urban Movie Channel, among other others.

Amazon Channels, which maintains control over third-party OTT usage among Prime members, in addition to revenue sharing deals, has been credited by WarnerMedia, LIonsgate and CBS for driving subscriber growth for their respective brands.

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Apple Channels reportedly is getting from 15% to 30% of third-party revenue from subscribers registering through The App Store on Apple devices.

In addition, Apple Channels users can only stream third-party content through its app on Apple devices; not on other platforms such as Roku, Google Chromecast or PlayStation Vue, among others.

Current third-party SVOD subs can access the platforms through Apple Channels. The platform is not Apple TV+, the new SVOD platform launching later this year.