January 27, 2021
AT&T Jan. 27 said the Christmas Day theatrical/SVOD release of Wonder Woman 1984 helped drive domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers to more than 41 million in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2020 — two years faster than the telecom’s initial forecast. The DC superhero movie sequel starring Gal Gadot was the first of WarnerMedia’s 2021 theatrical slate earmarked with concurrent Max release. HBO and HBO Max had 34.6 million subscribers in the prior-year period ended Dec. 31, 2019.
AT&T said WW84 helped double Max activations to 17.2 million in the quarter from 8.6 million at the end of the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, 2020; and 4.1 million at the end of June. The $14.99 SVOD platform launched on May 27, 2020.
“We ended the year with strong momentum in our market focus areas of broadband connectivity and software-based entertainment,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.
Stankey said Max remains on schedule to launch operations in Latin America as well debut an ad-supported version in the second quarter.
“We’ve been working really hard on [Latin America] and will be an important driver for us on future growth and getting ourselves embedded in the international front,” Stankey said. “You should expect to see a lot of activity and change going on here.”
Regardless, the tally underscores ongoing sluggishness among existing HBO pay-TV subs to voluntarily transition to Max. Indeed, the majority of Max subs — 30.8 million — come from so-called “wholesale” avenues, which include free Max access to existing HBO subs via third-party pay-TV operators such as Comcast, Dish Network and Cox Spectrum. Just 6.9 million acquired Max through WarnerMedia retail channels, which now include Amazon Fire TV and Roku.
Separately, AT&T saw 270,000 subscribers drop online television service AT&T TV in 2020 (including 27,000 in Q4), to end the year with 656,000 subs — down nearly 30% from 926,000 subs at the end of 2019.
Online TV subs exclude WatchTV, which launched near end of June 2018. Beginning in this month, AT&T TV Now has been combined with AT&T TV. AT&T TV Now connections as of 4Q 2020 include 12,000 free trial-period subscribers. AT&T said it has successfully retained many subscribers after the expiration of their trial period.
Finally, AT&T’s pay-TV services — U-verse and DirecTV — lost a combined 617,000 video subs in the quarter. The premium TV channels lost nearly 3 million combined subs in 2020 to the end the year with 16.5 million.