WarnerMedia: HBO Max to Enhance Content Appeal with ‘Swipey’ Search

With WarnerMedia in a “quiet period” heading into the May launch of HBO Max, two company executives took to the stage Jan. 7 at CES 2020 in Las Vegas to shed some additional light on the new service.

CTO Jeremy Legg and Andy Forssell, former boss at Hulu and now EVP and GM at WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer, said the new $14.99 SVOD platform would have an enhanced user interface (UI) to help subscribers find and receive content recommendations.

Former Hulu boss Andy Forssell now heads WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer

Legg said Max would attempt to avoid what he characterized as “endless scroll” for users into a more “swipey” experience. The platform is considering presenting myriad content across WarnerMedia brands as Disney+ is doing with Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and others.

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Netflix wrote the book on content recommendation, becoming the first SVOD service to zero in on subscriber likes and dislikes using software analytics.

Forssell was asked what consumers could expect from Max regarding programming, including original shows and movies.

“If you think about our mission writ large, we have tremendous creative talent at HBO and HBO Max, Warner Bros., Turner networks,” Forssell said. “Their job is to find great creative, find the right audience and the right place for it.”

He said content would be distributed in the appropriate channel, which includes SVOD, theatrical, third-party and old-school linear TV.

“You’ll see things where we’ll decide the right place for it is SVOD and there may be life for it on linear networks or elsewhere,” Forssell said. “You’ll see the reverse as well. You’re going to see it both directions. I think there is as much synergy there, more so than conflict.”

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Max, which is targeting 50 million subs in the first five years, continues to negotiate third-party distribution deals and bundles similar to what Disney+ did with Verizon and bundling Hulu and ESPN+.

“Bundling, when it’s done right, is good for consumers and it’s good for people doing the bundle,” Forssell said. “It makes things stickier. You can bet that we’ll be aggressive.”

When asked if the executives worry about first-day tech glitches that impacted Disney+ on its debut, both said they anticipate issues but that the company already has a proven track record with HBO Now.

Legg said HBO Now was able to accommodate 4.7 million concurrent streams of the final “Game of Thrones” episode, which he believes should help Max avoid tech issues.