Jason Kilar: Warner Bros. Producing 10 More Theatrical Releases Streaming Concurrently on HBO Max in 2022

WarnerMedia made headlines releasing the entire 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max for a movie’s first 31 days of release.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, speaking on the company’s July 22 fiscal call, said the controversial strategy through six months reveals the enduring importance of the box office ($463 million in revenue domestically through June 30) coupled with the impact technology has made on distribution.

“Clearly motion pictures matter and will continue to matter when it comes to theatrical exhibition,” Kilar said. “They also matter at home, and absolutely in terms of the response that we’ve gotten … from all of our day-and-date titles. We feel very good about the response that consumers have given it in the home.”

Jason Kilar

As the exhibition business turns the page on the pandemic and more moviegoers are vaccinated, Kilar, who is on tap to remain CEO of WarnerMedia into next year heading into the completion of the Discovery merger, doesn’t anticipate movie distribution returning to the lengthy theatrical window.

He said that while some Warner titles in 2022 will have a 45-day window, the studio is also going to be producing more than 10 movies that will be available on HBO Max and in theaters on day one.

“I think that what you’re going to see is this industry continues to evolve, and to continue to innovate in ways that not only works for consumers and fans, but also works for our business partners,” Kilar said.

Separately, AT&T CEO John Stankey said the telecom has heard nothing from federal regulators regarding the merger that will transform WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery and see Discovery CEO Davis Zaslav running the unit.

Stankey said the regulatory process involves document production and providing information that’s responsive to the government’s requests to begin the reviews.

“No news is good news,” he said. “I’ll tell you internally, all the normal steps are going on to be prepared operationally for when we would expect an approval. It’s not a complicated transaction.”

CNN to Launch ‘CNN+’ SVOD Service

Following competitor Fox News’ launch of Fox Nation in 2018, CNN reportedly will launch a branded subscription streaming service next year dubbed “CNN+” and featuring the network’s media personalities.

The move comes as CNN parent WarnerMedia is merging with Discovery to rebrand as Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022. The new company will be run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who said he plans to ramp up investment in CNN going forward.

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The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the CNN+ programming would be complementary — not a replacement — to the premium network. The platform would operate and be priced similarly to Disney’s ESPN+, which offers programming separate from the flagship ESPN network.

In addition to Fox News, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service features progressive news/commentary platform The Choice, as well as NBC News Now. The Paramount+ SVOD platform offers CBS News.

New HBO Max Ad-Supported Tier Bows Today

HBO Max June 2 launched a new advertising-supported subscription tier. Max now provides consumers the option between the existing ad-free subscription option at $14.99 per month, or one with ads for $9.99 per month.

Max is offering new and returning subscribers the ability to pre-pay and save 15% by signing up for the ad-supported tier for $99.99 per year, or without ads for $149.99 per year.

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“Advertising is a time-tested way to reduce the cost of great entertainment and reach a wider audience,” Andy Forssell, EVP and GM of HBO Max, said in a statement. “We’ve worked hard to create an elegant, tasteful ad experience that is respectful of great storytelling for those users who choose it, and which we’re confident will deliver for our advertising partners as well.”

Both Max subscription tiers offer access to the streaming platform’s lineup of new original programming, as well its deep catalog of content from brands, including HBO, Warner Bros., DC, Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network, among others. Subscribers to both tiers will also have access to Max’s premium user experience, which weaves together discovery, personalization and customization, a video player, parental controls and a kids experience.

The ad-supported tier does not include the ability to download content for offline viewing, and streaming video quality will be capped at 1080p. Warner Bros. same-day premiere films debuting in theaters and on Max throughout 2021 are not included in the ad-supported tier, but will become available on both tiers when the films debut in the months following their theatrical releases as part of HBO’s output deal with Warner Bros.

At a maximum of four minutes of commercial time per hour, Max’s ad-supported subscription tier promises the lowest commercial ad load in the streaming industry. Additionally, ads will not play during HBO programming. Over time, subscribers can expect to see greater personalization in the ads they do see with more innovation in formats to come. Ads on Max are designed to complement and enhance the overall viewing experience and will be thoughtfully surfaced across Max’s content catalog in a way that maintains the integrity of the programming.

More than 35 brands across all major categories are slated to go live on Max, including two partners in auto and insurance, with 72 creatives currently housed for campaigns. By deploying frequency caps, advertisers are encouraged to lean into greater variation of creative and formats to enhance the consumer experience.

“Thank you to the incredible brands who leaned forward on the importance of a consumer-centric ad experience that engages fans,” said JP Colaco, head of advertising sales for WarnerMedia. “Together with our valued partners we will continue to explore the art of what’s possible in video advertising across all platforms.”