HBO Max (Finally) Joins Amazon Fire TV Platform

WarnerMedia’s SVOD platform HBO Max Nov. 16 got a huge boost when it announced the streamer would officially join Amazon’s Fire TV platform, including Fire TV Edition smart TVs and Fire tablets, on Nov. 17. Max has been conspicuously absent from Fire TV (and Roku platform) since launching six months ago–hindering subscriber growth, according to experts.

This launch brings HBO Max into the living rooms of tens of millions of Amazon device customers.

Upon Fire TV availability, current subscribers of HBO through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels will be able to log in to the Max app with their Amazon credentials at no additional cost. The HBO app on Fire TV and Fire tablets will automatically update to become the Max app; customers will be able to log in using their existing HBO credentials. New customers can also subscribe to Max directly in the app. Additionally, all existing Max customers – regardless of how they subscribe to the platform – can now access all of Max via supported Fire TV and Fire tablet devices using their existing provider credentials.

Previously, Max users could only access original and exclusive content when downloading and registering separately with the Max app — a scenario that hindered sub growth, according to observers. Max remains absent from the Roku platform.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We are very excited that Amazon customers will now be able to enjoy the best-in-class content that lives within HBO Max,” Tony Goncalves, head of sales and distribution for WarnerMedia, said in a statement. “Fire TV is a favorite among customers and we look forward to working with the Amazon team to engage and grow our existing subscriber base by showcasing all that Max has to offer.”

With Amazon Alexa, at launch customers can navigate to the Max app by saying “Alexa, find HBO Max” with Fire TV’s included Alexa Voice Remote or a paired Echo device for hands-free control. Max content is also integrated into universal search on Fire TV, meaning that its content will appear in searches such as “Alexa, find dramas” or “Alexa, find Game of Thrones.” Customers can also ask Alexa to start watching something specific; “Alexa, play The Undoing.”

“We’ve worked closely with HBO for many years to bring their great content to Fire TV and to make it easier to discover and enjoy with features like search integration, Alexa and personalized recommendations,” said Marc Whitten, VP of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, “We are excited to continue that partnership with the launch of HBO Max to bring even more incredible content to customers on Fire TV.”

This month, Max features the debut of Max Originals, including “The Flight Attendant,” starring Kaley Cuoco, Superintelligence with Melissa McCarthy and the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion,” plus the premieres of HBO’s new series “Industry” and special event “Between the World and Me,” a gripping adaption of the New York Times #1 bestselling book by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Movies Magic Mike, 13 Going on 30 and The Dark Knight are also available on Max this month. December brings the return of “Euphoria” with a special episode and the debut of Steven Soderbergh’s film Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, as well as the platform’s very first holiday special, My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood.

Longtime Warner Publicity Executive Melissa Hufjay Exits Studio

Melissa Hufjay, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment VP of publicity, TV, animation and originals, is exiting the studio after 18 years as part of the WarnerMedia reorganization.

Her position focused on executive oversight of WBHE’s full-service publicity department for the television business unit, including guiding and executing all public relations initiatives and activities on physical and digital for television, genre, family, animation (Warner Bros. Animation and acquisitions), Blue Ribbon Content (live-action and animation), and WBHE-produced live-action films and special Interest home entertainment initiatives, including brands such as DC Comics, Hanna Barbera, LEGO and Warner Bros. Animation. For the past year, Hufjay has also reported into Warner Bros Television, working to streamline comprehensive campaigns for TV productions through the home entertainment window.

Hufjay is highly respected in the industry. Among her many public relations successes are campaigns launching the home entertainment releases of “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” the “Peanuts” and “Sesame Street” franchises, popular Blue Ribbon Content, and WBHE-produced live-action films (including the Cinderella Story, Deep Blue Sea and Critters franchises), as well as launching and orchestrating publicity and marketing activities for more than 40 films in the ongoing DC Universe movies series over the past 13 years. In addition, she handled publicity efforts for the NFL, NBA and NHL home entertainment releases.

A graduate of George Washington University, Hufjay’s 28-year career has included publicity positions at studios and publicity firms including Paramount Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment, DreamWorks, Rogers & Cowan and Warner Bros.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“While change is not easy, it’s something I’ve always embraced,” Hufjay said. “I’ve had an amazing 17-and-a-half-year run at Warner Bros. and will forever be grateful to my mentors and colleagues. After spending most of my time with superheroes, my immediate plan is to focus on my family over the holidays but I’m so excited to choose the next step in my career.”

WarnerMedia Boss Jason Kilar Sends Out Staff Memo Announcing Job Cuts

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar Nov. 10 sent out a staff email outlining the company’s ongoing restructuring, which the former Hulu CEO said included addressing “which jobs are being eliminated and which roles have changed.”

The memo did not identify specific positions or personnel. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT at which Kilar said he will answer staff questions.

Since acquiring Time Warner and creating WarnerMedia, AT&T has grappled with paying down billions in debt and streamlining costs magnified during a pandemic.

Kilar, who was hired by corporate parent AT&T on April 1 to spearhead the former Time Warner company, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, has previously disclosed that upwards of 20% of WarnerMedia’s staff positions would be let go. In August, Kilar cut about 500 positions, including that of longtime home entertainment boss Ron Sanders, as part of restructuring the company’s entertainment studios, elevating HBO Max companywide, and consolidating commercial activities.

“This is a very painful email to write,” Kilar wrote. “And for a number of you reading this, I realize it will be even more painful to receive. For this, I am sorry.”

“Today, we have arrived at a number of difficult decisions that are resulting in a smaller WarnerMedia team,” Kilar wrote. “This is a function of removing layers and the impact of consolidating previously separate organizations. Starting today in North America, we will be sharing which jobs are being eliminated and which roles have changed. We are continuing to review proposed changes in other countries across our non-U.S. businesses, the timing of which will vary according to local regulatory requirements. Nothing about this is easy. But please know, these reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the team members impacted, nor their work. It is simply a function of the changes I believe we must make in order to best serve customers. For those impacted, we will be offering severance and healthcare packages, in addition to professional services and team member assistance programs.”

Kilar said he anticipates that organizationally, things will “settle down materially” in the weeks and months to come, while adding that WarnerMedia’s future is not static.

“Our future is about inventing ever better ways to move the world through story, which entails embracing change,” he wrote. “I have every confidence in this world class team to do just that.”

To our colleagues who are leaving, I wish there were words to lessen today’s pain. Your contributions are a permanent part of this great company and today’s news does not change that. I am extremely thankful for all that you have done for this team and this mission. I hope that at some point you will look back on all of it with immense pride.

John Stankey: Live Sports Could Play Limited Role in HBO Max AVOD Rollout

With HBO Max looking to expand its presence in Latina America and Western Europe in 2021, WarnerMedia’s subscription streaming VOD platform will also tackle an ad-supported option going forward — that could include live sports.

Speaking on AT&T’s recent fiscal call, CEO John Stankey addressed a host of questions on Max and its relation to the existing pay-TV ecosystem, and its main draw: live sports. WarnerMedia’s TNT networks has major distribution agreements with the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Stankey said that live sports will remain a unique pillar of pay-TV, which he contends will be the distribution channel’s key advantage when  cord-cutting reduces the pay-TV household footprint to around 50 million to 60 million in the coming years.

“Sports content is important to our linear business, our cable networks business to make sure we have enough of it that sustains that business and keeps it at attractive must-have offering, an offering that our customers want to have in that cable bundle,” Stankey said.

At the same time, AT&T’s online TV  platform, AT&T TV, and Max aim to push WarnerMedia content beyond premium television. And live sports could be part of the mix — as professional soccer, cycling is doing in Europe. Stankey said the concept of adding live sports to streaming video distribution is appealing.

“You’ll probably see as we move through AVOD, maybe we do some additional live work that we have coming forward,” he said.

But Stankey cautioned that any move would be complementary to pay-TV and not involve growing the company’s sports footprint to include additional leagues beyond e-sports and gaming. WarnerMedia recently launched “TNT Bets,” an online companion show available through the TNT app that features live-streamed feed of the games, commentary on betting analysis and odds.

“ELEAGUE,” the interactive gaming show that airs on TBS, just partnered with Amazon’s Twitch for “Super Punch,” an interactive show where fans can discuss the most relevant gaming topics of the day and week.

“Our goal is not to become known as the sports company,” Stankey said. “I don’t see going deeper in sports is the direction for WarnerMedia.”

AT&T CEO: ‘Tenet’ Theatrical Release No Fiscal Home Run

Warner Bros.’ return to theatrical distribution remains a work in progress due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeping theaters in key markets closed.

Speaking on the company’s Oct. 22 fiscal call, AT&T CEO John Stankey said he’s “breathing a lot easier now” about the restart of movie and TV productions at Warner, which he said totaled about 130 through the previous week from the pre-pandemic tally of 180 in February.

“We’re well back up [into production],” Stankey said, adding that he didn’t think production needed to return to the previous 180 count based on renewed “rationalizations” regarding market realities.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“The confidence of employees [working on sets] is growing day by day, so feel good about where that’s at,” he said. “Think we’re out of the woods from the dead cold of the pandemic. That’s going to help our products, most importantly HBO Max.”

The theatrical business, however, is a different reality.

“That’s still one of the things we don’t have great visibility on,” Stankey said.

Prodded by director Christopher Nolan’s penchant for theatrical releases, Warner Sept. 4 launched espionage thriller Tenet in theaters worldwide. While ticket sales were respectable overseas, domestic revenue was not, generating just $50.6 million, or about 15% of the movie’s $334 million global take. The movie reportedly had a $200 million production budget.

“I can’t tell you that we walked away from the Tenet experience saying it was a home run,” Stankey said. “[But] I’m happy we did it.”

The CEO said the studio has had “some experimentation” on distribution, which included forays into early transactional VOD and premium VOD access in the home — the latter around animated movie Scoob!.

“We tried a few things,” Stankey said, without elaborating. “We learned things we can do. I believe if theaters were open nationwide, [if] California and New York were open, we would have some latitude to be able to do some of these geographical releases.”

He said the winter holiday period would be the next “checkpoint” as to whether Warner could move content back into theaters, which Stankey said remains the most ideal distribution channel for major tentpole titles.

“At the same time, we’re expecting this be incredible choppy moving into next year,” he said. “We’re not optimistic … expecting a big recovery in theatrical movement in the early part of next year.”

Stankey expects the theatrical waters to remain “choppy” well into 2021, which he said translates into evaluating all “of our [distribution] options,” including studio teams working the Plan A, Plan B and Plan C plans.

“As we get through the next month or two, we’ll pull the cards on the [plans],” he said.

AT&T CFO John Stephens estimates COVID-19 has had a $1.6 billion negative impact on WarnerMedia, the organizational umbrella that includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

HBO Max Touts 8.6 Million Q3 Activations; 38 Million U.S. Subs Total

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s high-profile subscription streaming video platform, Oct. 22 reported 8.6 million subscriber activations in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The SVOD service had 4.1 million activations after its first month of service following the May 27 launch. Activations are classified as HBO pay-TV subscribers and non-subs who sign up separately for Max with a “valid payment” method.

Max and HBO totaled 38 million combined subs when factoring in existing HBO subs able to access Max (for free) via third-party pay-TV operators. They had 36.2 million combined subs on July 23, exceeding a year-end goal of 36 million. Domestic HBO and Max subscribers do not include customers that are part of a free trial.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Worldwide HBO/Max subs consist of domestic and international HBO subscribers and domestic Max subs and excludes Cinemax subs. AT&T management says Max consumer engagement is 60% higher than for SVOD predecessor HBO Now.

“We continue to grow and scale HBO Max, with total domestic HBO and Max subscribers … well ahead of our expectations for the full year,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement. AT&T has spent $2 billion on the launch of Max.

While Stankey put a positive spin on subscriber growth, the activation figure underscores Max’s ongoing struggles to capture consumers — without distribution agreements with Roku and Amazon. To compare, Max’s new sub additions were only about twice that of Netflix’s sluggish Q3 additions, which ended the quarter with 195 million paid subs.

WarnerMedia, HBO Max Taking a Road Trip

AT&T, WarnerMedia and General Motors have partnered to offer drivers of select Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles access to high-speed Internet and video entertainment while on the go.

Dubbed “WarnerMedia Ride,” the platform offers video content on personal smartphones or tablets connected to in-car Wi-Fi hotspots. That includes news and sports programming and content from brands including Bleacher Report, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT and more. AT&T plans to offer HBO Max on qualifying data plans next year.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“The addition of WarnerMedia’s library of podcasts, movies and television programming — combined with AT&T’s wireless connectivity — is just another way we’re enhancing the ownership experience for our customers, whether that’s a family looking to entertain kids or a commuter enjoying a favorite podcast,” Santiago Chamorro, VP and GM of global connected services, said in a statement.

GM customers already have access to WarnerMedia Audio, including more than 70 podcasts and hundreds of hours of audio content from WarnerMedia’s vast podcast library and live audio simulcasts from the WarnerMedia news networks.

“WarnerMedia Ride” will be available with AT&T unlimited data plans in connected cars at no additional cost across U.S domestic car brands. Passengers can download the “WarnerMedia Ride” app on the App Store or Google Play.  A user-friendly interface with a new authentication feature lets users access content once the app senses the vehicle’s Wi-Fi hotspot.

“This relationship with GM means we can fully connect car owners with new immersive experiences and exclusive content to create meaningful connections for the whole family,” said Barry Loudis, VP of WarnerMedia content experiences.

AT&T plans to offer HBO Max as a unique premium bundle of connectivity and content for AT&T connected car data plan subscribers next year. This would mean 10,000 hours of curated premium content from iconic brands such as HBO Max, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes and more through in-vehicle Wi-Fi.

Owners of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac vehicles can go to my.gm.com to get more information and find out if their vehicle is eligible for WarnerMedia content.

WarnerMedia Names Channing Dungey Chairman, Warner Bros. TV Group

Unemployment didn’t last long for Channing Dungey. Just days after departing Netflix as VP of original series, Dungey Oct. 19 was named chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group. She will replace Peter Roth, who is stepping down in 2021.

Dungey had been at Netflix just two years after becoming the first black executive to head a broadcast network entertainment division at Disney-owned ABC Television. Warner Bros. Television is one of the largest producers of episodic programming.

WarnerMedia Studios and Network CEO Ann Sarnoff called Dungey’s hiring a homecoming.

“She was a production executive at Warner Bros. early in her career, and we’re excited to have her rejoin the studio,” Sarnoff said in a statement.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Dungey made headlines in 2018 when she called out Roseanne Barr for supposedly racist tweets, calling the comedienne’s comments “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.” Barr was fired from the successful reboot “Roseanne,” which was subsequently canceled and retooled as “The Conners.”

“Channing is one of the most talented, visionary, creative and respected executives working in television today,” Sarnoff said. “She’s a great choice to lead the television group as it continues to grow its production operations for HBO Max, while also maintaining its standing as the industry’s leading independent supplier of programming to all outlets.”

Ampere: Peacock and HBO Max Appealing to Different Audiences

NBCUniversal’s Peacock subscription streaming video service topped 15 million app subs, while WarnerMedia’s HBO Max surpassed 4.1 million in their respective first month of operation. New data from Ampere Analysis contends consumer response to the two platforms has been positive.

The London-based research firm, citing a survey of 4,000 online respondents in the U.S., found 8% of domestic Internet homes had Max subscriptions, while 7% were using Peacock. Age seems to be a factor among app subscribers.

“Peacock’s early adopters show that it has been successful in converting broadcast channel audiences — who are an older demographic and typically more difficult to convert — into SVOD subscribers, allowing it to play in an arena that is generally less competitive,” senior analyst Annabel Yeomans said in a statement.

Indeed, Max subscribers are 50% more likely to be in the 25- to 44-year-old age group, which is identical to the current HBO pay-TV sub. In addition, Max’s $14.99 — thus attracting 69% of households with incomes of $51,000 or more.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Meanwhile, Peacock is appealing to slightly older subs (35 to 44), with broadcast programming targeting older viewers, according to Ampere. The report contends 19% of Peacock’s viewers are over 55, compared with 6% of Max viewers. And 54% of Peacock households have total incomes of $51,000 or more.

Peacock, unlike other major SVOD platforms, has a free ad-supported option.

Regardless, content remains king and Yeomans said Max has yet to diversify its audience away from the hardcore HBO pay-TV channel known for high-end drama, comedy and documentaries.

“Nonetheless this is an already-crowded market with strong competitors like, so while increasing the diversity of catalogs and quality of original content will be key to driving scale, playing to each services’ brand and audience strengths should also not be forgotten,” she said.

WarnerMedia Planning to Cut Workforce Upwards of 20%

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is continuing to clean house since being hired earlier this year by AT&T CEO John Stankey to run the former Time Warner entity. Kilar, who formerly headed Hulu, reportedly is seeking additional entertainment cuts approaching 20% of the company’s workforce since eliminating 500 positions in August. Those layoffs included Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. worldwide theatrical distribution and president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Cuts in the coming weeks are expected at Warner Bros., HBO, TBS and TNT.

“Like the rest of the entertainment industry, we have not been immune to the significant impact of the pandemic,” a WarnerMedia spokesman told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the restructuring. “We are in the midst of that process and it will involve increased investments in priority areas and, unfortunately, reductions in others.”

WarnerMedia reportedly had 26,000 employees when it was Time Warner. With the entertainment sector in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and studio and TV production in slow motion, WarnerMedia is putting much of its resources into HBO Max, the recently-launched SVOD and pending AVOD platform.

Max had about 4.1 million people activate the app in the first month since launching on May 27. When combined with a negotiations impasse with Roku regarding placement of the Max app on the streaming media manufacturer’s platform, the SVOD and pending AVOD platform significantly lags behind rivals Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

In addition, Warner Bros. continues to push back theatrical releases to 2021, including most recently sci-fi reboot Dune, from December to next year. Robert Pattinson starrer The Batman has been bumped from 2021 to 2022. Patty Jenkins sequel Wonder Woman 1984 has been bumped three times to the current Dec. 25 release.

“There’s nothing that’s sacred anywhere in the business,” Stankey told The Journal earlier this year. “WarnerMedia is no exception to that.”