HBO Max

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HBO Max
HBO Max Logo.svg
Type of site
OTT video streaming platform
Area servedUnited States
OwnerAT&T
Key peopleCasey Bloys (head of programming)
Andy Forssell (head of business operations)
ParentWarnerMedia
URLwww.hbomax.com
Alexa rankDecrease 956 (September 2020)[1]
UsersIncrease 4.1 million (as of June 30, 2020)
LaunchedMay 27, 2020; 3 months ago (2020-05-27)

HBO Max is an American subscription video on demand streaming service from AT&T's WarnerMedia. The service launched on May 27, 2020.

HBO Max is based on WarnerMedia's HBO premium TV service and includes all of its programming, plus a range of additional original programming and library content from all parts of WarnerMedia, as well as third-party content providers from which WarnerMedia bought streaming rights.

According to AT&T, HBO Max had garnered 4.1 million activated subscribers by the end of June 2020, 1.1 million of whom get free access through HBO pay TV subscriptions; there are at least 21 million additional HBO pay TV customers whose subscriptions make them eligible for free access to HBO Max but who had not activated the service by that time.[2][3]

History[edit]

On October 10, 2018, WarnerMedia announced that it would launch an over-the-top streaming service in late 2019, featuring content from its entertainment brands.[4] The original plan for the service called for three tiers with a late 2019 launch.[5] Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and CEO of WarnerMedia's parent, AT&T indicated in mid-May 2019 that it would use the HBO brand and would tie into cable operators as HBO cable subscribers would have access to the streaming service. A beta was expected in the fourth quarter of 2019 and full launch in first quarter 2020 at the time.[6]

Otter Media was transferred in May 2019 to WarnerMedia Entertainment from Warner Bros. to take over the streaming service as Brad Bentley, executive vice president and general manager of the direct-to-consumer development exited the post after six months. Andy Forssell transferred from being chief operating officer of Otter to replace Bentley as executive vice president and general manager while still reporting to Otter CEO Tony Goncalves, who would lead development.[7]

On July 9, 2019, WarnerMedia announced that the service would be known as HBO Max, and would launch in spring 2020, while Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and Greg Berlanti were signed to production deals for the service. (The "Max" moniker is shared with HBO's sister linear pay TV service Cinemax, which has alternately identified by its suffix name since the mid-1980s and used it prominently in its branding from 2008 to 2011.)[8] On October 29, 2019, it was announced that HBO Max would officially launch in May 2020.[9]

On January 8, 2020, AT&T announced that Audience, a channel exclusive to subscribers of AT&T-owned TV providers such as DirecTV with some original programming, would be sunset on May 22, eventually transitioning to a barker channel for HBO Max.[10] Warner Bros. and HBO Max announced the Warner Max film label on February 5, 2020, which would produce eight to ten mid-budget movies per year for the streaming service starting in 2020.[11] On April 20, 2020, WarnerMedia announced HBO Max's launch date as May 27.[12]

Management[edit]

HBO Max was formed under WarnerMedia's Entertainment division, then headed by Robert Greenblatt. Kevin Reilly, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks which includes most of the company's ad-supported entertainment channels such as TBS, TNT, and TruTV, was also given the role of as chief content officer of HBO Max with responsibility for HBO Max-exclusive original programming and library content. Andy Forssell was named the service's executive vice president and general manager while still reporting to Otter Media CEO Tony Goncalves, who leads development.[8] Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO, retained oversight of the core HBO service but was not initially involved with Max-exclusive programming.

On August 7, 2020, WarnerMedia announced a major restructuring under new president Jason Kilar, which he described as "leaning into this great moment of change" towards direct-to-consumer services. As a result, Greenblatt and Reilly both left the company, and WarnerMedia Entertainment was dissolved, with programming operations combined with Warner Bros. in a new Studios and Networks group under that studio's CEO Ann Sarnoff. Bloys was given full programming oversight of HBO and HBO Max, as well as Reilly's other previous responsibilities, reporting to Sarnoff. Forssell became the head of a new HBO Max operating business unit, reporting directly to Kilar.[13]

Content[edit]

WarnerMedia indicated that the service would have 10,000 hours of content at-launch, including first-run and library content from the namesake HBO (including its original series, documentaries, and specials), and content from the company's other brands and networks.[14][15][16] WarnerMedia stated that the service would have over 2,000 films available at-launch, including HBO's existing pay television rights that are sourced from studios including sister company Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Studios (the latter two have respective output deals with HBO until 2022; films from 20th Century will likely move to Disney+ and Hulu once its output deal expire, while future rights to Universal films are still up for negotiation despite the launch of Peacock).[15][17][18]

As with HBO's existing streaming platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now (but as opposed to its platforms on Apple TV Channels and Amazon Video Channels), HBO Max is not expected to include feeds of HBO's linear cable channels,[19] nor is it expected to include any content (including original programming) from Cinemax, which will concurrently wind down its original programming efforts as WarnerMedia reallocates its programming investments towards HBO Max.[20] (Cinemax shares its film content with the linear HBO channel, and therefore the majority of films in the combined library will be on both services in different windows, but films will not necessarily be available on both HBO Max and Cinemax at the same time.) AT&T chairman and CEO Randall L. Stephenson has not ruled out adding live content from Turner Sports in the future (such as the NBA on TNT, Major League Baseball on TBS, and NCAA March Madness).[21]

Content providers[edit]

First and third party content providers for HBO Max. Asterisk (*) denotes third parties.

Max Originals[edit]

Original content produced will be under the banner Max Originals, including series, films, and specials. Original episodic content is released weekly, eschewing the "binge" format made popular by Netflix. Kevin Reilly stated this was to ensure that originals would remain in the spotlight for extended periods, by letting said shows "breathe" as opposed to "fading quickly after a binge and burn". He also noted that the weekly schedule helped to drive the success of past HBO shows like Succession and Chernobyl which they co-produced with Sky UK, and became hits precisely due to their staying power.[22] On February 5, 2020, Warner Bros. announced that it would form a new label known as Warner Max to produce 8 to 10 mid-budget films for the service annually.[23] A slate of 31 original series were planned for its first year, with plans to expand to 50 for its next year, but production timelines may have been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] HBO Max also has podcasts about the films and TV series on the service.[24]

Syndication[edit]

New Warner Bros. Television-produced series that have premiered on The CW since the 2019–20 season (beginning with Batwoman and Katy Keene) will have their past seasons placed on HBO Max a month before the newest season premieres on TV (streaming rights to existing series remains with Netflix under an existing deal).[8] On July 9, 2019, HBO Max acquired the U.S. streaming rights to Friends in a $425 million deal,[8][15] and on September 17, 2019, acquired the U.S. streaming rights to The Big Bang Theory, as part of a deal that also extends TBS's off-network rights to the series through 2028.[25]

Acquired rights[edit]

Outside of WarnerMedia, the service also offers titles from The Criterion Collection,[26] and has a long-term partnership with BBC Studios (which HBO had previously partnered with to create His Dark Materials). Over 700 episodes of BBC content are slated to be available on the service at launch, including the first 11 seasons of the 2005 Doctor Who revival, as well as future seasons twelve through fourteen, and a variety of other shows including The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the original British version of The Office. Additionally, future shows by BBC Studios will be co-produced with HBO Max.[27] HBO also extended their existing partnership with Sesame Workshop, while moving said content to the front of the HBO Max brand. Select episodes from all fifty seasons of Sesame Street (dating back to 1969) are available to stream on the service for the first time ever.[28] Additionally, future seasons of Sesame Street will stream exclusively on HBO Max, alongside Esme & Roy, and several new spin-offs starting with The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, Mecha Builders, and The Monster at the End of This Story.[29]

HBO Max has acquired the streaming rights to several Comedy Central series, including South Park, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, South Side, and The Other Two; with the latter two becoming Max Original series.[30]

Animation[edit]

Western[edit]

The service also features many hubs for animated programming, drawing largely from the libraries of Warner Bros. Animation (including the Looney Tunes franchise and Hanna-Barbera productions) and Cartoon Network, along with Adult Swim. Original animated series (including the Adventure Time epilogue specials Adventure Time: Distant Lands, Jellystone!, Looney Tunes Cartoons, a continuation of Infinity Train and Summer Camp Island, and a reboot of The Boondocks produced by Sony Pictures Animation) for both network sections were also announced for HBO Max,[31][32][15] and the service beat out competitors to acquire exclusive domestic streaming rights to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's South Park and its next three seasons, in a shared deal with ViacomCBS's Comedy Central (which Warner used to own a half ownership share of Comedy Central from 1991 to 2003) for $500 million (with new episodes being added 24 hours after their premiere on Comedy Central) [33]

Anime[edit]

Crunchyroll provides a growing selection of anime content for the service, curated every quarter, starting with seventeen anime. This includes Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Kill la Kill, Berserk, Your Lie in April, Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World, Rurouni Kenshin, and the internally produced In/Spectre. In addition, Death Note and Hunter × Hunter are on the platform within the first year of the service. Death Note, as well as the first five episodes of Tower of God, were added on June 19, 2020 while Hunter X Hunter was added on June 23, 2020.[34] The service is also the first U.S. service to hold streaming rights to the films of Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, via its North American distributor GKIDS. Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro and more became available on the service at launch.[35][36] Fellow Otter Media company Rooster Teeth also contributes content, with season two of Gen:Lock to be a timed exclusive for HBO Max.[37]

Post-launch[edit]

All eight films in the Harry Potter series were available to stream on the service on launch day, despite earlier reports indicating that the films, although produced by Warner Bros., would not be available due to a prior broadcast rights agreement with NBCUniversal.[38] It was later announced that the films would be removed on August 25.[39] On May 29, 2020, HBO Max acquired the exclusive streaming rights to The Big Bang Theory spin-off Young Sheldon.[40]

On June 9, 2020, Gone with the Wind was temporarily removed from HBO Max's library amid the George Floyd protests, following an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley.[41][42] On June 25, 2020, the film returned in its original form with, as suggested by Ridley, a new introduction by Turner Classic Movies host Jacqueline Stewart discussing the film's treatments of the American Civil War, the Reconstruction era, and American slavery of African people.[43][44][45]

On June 27, 2020, it was revealed that DC Universe original Harley Quinn will stream its first two seasons on HBO Max.[46] On June 29, 2020, HBO Max secured the exclusive streaming rights of the Oprah Winfrey Network series David Makes Man.[47]

Distribution[edit]

United States[edit]

The majority of active subscribers to either HBO Now or the HBO pay TV service (which includes HBO Go) at time of launch can access HBO Max for no extra charge, with all three services generally sharing the same price point of $14.99 per month. However, this transition is contingent on the customer's current provider or biller having signed a new distribution agreement for HBO Max with WarnerMedia.[19][48] For certain distributors that are members of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), access to HBO Max will be rolled out later in 2020.[49]

In announcing HBO Max, WarnerMedia immediately confirmed that HBO subscribers on AT&T-owned platforms (including AT&T TV, DirecTV, U-verse, and AT&T Mobility) will receive HBO Max on-launch at no additional charge.[50][51] AT&T customers who are subscribed to their highest-tiered internet, TV and wireless plans will also receive HBO Max for free, while those on lower-tiered plans will get a free trial ranging from one month to one year.[52] Existing HBO Now subscribers billed directly by HBO were also migrated to HBO Max on-launch at no additional charge. On April 27, 2020, an agreement was announced for HBO Now subscribers via Apple (both in-app subscriptions and Apple TV Channels) to be migrated to HBO Max. Content from HBO Max will be listed in the Apple TV app along with there being a dedicated HBO Max hub in the app.[53][54] On Apple TV devices, HBO Max is available to the regular fourth generation Apple TV and fifth generation Apple TV 4K; earlier versions which do not support third-party app download are not supported.

WarnerMedia subsequently negotiated with other pay TV providers for similar arrangements.[48] On February 20, 2020, WarnerMedia announced a distribution deal with YouTube TV that would allow members to add HBO and Cinemax, while also being able to include HBO Max as an add-on.[55] On April 15, 2020, WarnerMedia announced a similar deal with Charter Spectrum (which acquired Warner's former cable division that was spun off in 2009, in May 2016) to give access to HBO Max for HBO subscribers via their TV Everywhere credentials.[56] A similar agreement was announced with Hulu on May 1 for most existing subscribers via Hulu + Live TV, as well as being available as an add-on to all other plans on the service.[57] On May 20, 2020, it was announced that WarnerMedia had made distribution deals with Altice USA, Cox Communications, Xbox, Samsung, PlayStation, Verizon Communications and the NCTC.[58] An agreement with Comcast (Xfinity) was announced a few hours after the platform's launch.[59]

The two most prominent platforms without agreements to carry HBO Max are Amazon (maker of the Fire TV) and Roku, which together are estimated to control 70% of the U.S. streaming player market.[59] On May 13, 2020, John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, revealed to Variety that Amazon was very unlikely to become a launch partner for HBO Max; the parties have remained at an impasse following the launch, reportedly due to a disagreement about whether Amazon can host the additional Max programming directly on its Prime Video Channels platform as it does for HBO currently.[60][59] The dispute with Roku is reported to hinge on carriage commissions and advertising sales on the future ad-supported tier.[59] With both of these companies' devices, non-Max HBO content remains available as usual through the companies' respective channels platforms and/or through HBO Now. Dish Network was also erroneously mentioned as a holdout in some media reports; HBO has not been available at all from Dish since late 2018 due to a separate dispute.[61]

HBO Max does not support 4K, HDR, or Dolby Atmos, but are planned as "part of the HBO Max product roadmap".[62][63] There is also no support for audio description for those with visual impairments.[64]

There are plans for HBO Max to introduce an ad-supported tier by 2021.[65]

International[edit]

Localized versions of HBO Max are scheduled to launch in 2021 in Latin America and the parts of Europe, such as Spain and the Nordics, where HBO already directly operates premium TV or streaming services.[66] In the interim, some HBO Max original programs will be available on WarnerMedia's existing international platforms, also including HBO Asia.[67][68]

In other countries, HBO programming is licensed to third-party networks and streaming services under long-term deals; many of these services, like HBO and its owner AT&T, are owned by major pay TV service providers in their respective markets. WarnerMedia said in late 2019 that it planned to continue HBO's existing international licensing partnerships for the time being.[69] However, as part of the WarnerMedia further restructuring announced in August 2020, WarnerMedia president Jason Kilar said HBO Max would be expanding its scope globally, without elaborating on specific new plans or timelines.[13]

Many HBO Max programs are also available in Canada through Bell Media (operator of HBO Canada and online streaming service Crave), and in Australia through Foxtel (operator of Fox Showcase and the Binge streaming service). Both Bell and Foxtel reached expanded agreements with WarnerMedia shortly before HBO Max's launch, extending their rights to HBO main-channel programming and adding most HBO Max original series produced directly by WarnerMedia, and in Foxtel's case certain WarnerMedia library series including Friends.[70][71] Programs produced by third-party studios are negotiated separately; for example, rights to Love Life (produced by Lionsgate) are also held by Crave in Canada, but by Stan in Australia.[71] Many of HBO Max's family-oriented and animated original series will be available in Canada through Corus (operator of the Teletoon and Treehouse networks).[72] This only applies to certain programming produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network and Sesame Workshop for which Corus had existing agreements prior to the launch of HBO Max.

Meanwhile, Sky (now owned by AT&T rival Comcast, and operator of channels including Sky Atlantic and the Now TV streaming platform) holds rights to HBO main-channel programming in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, the Republic of Ireland and Italy through 2024. Sky's most recent deal includes provisions for future HBO Max co-productions, but not necessarily other Max Originals.[73] In France, where HBO original programming is available on OCS, Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, revealed in February 2020 that there will be discussions with WarnerMedia regarding HBO Max programs following the end of its current agreements with HBO in 2022.[74] However, since then, OCS has acquired French rights to some HBO Max original programs on a case-by-case basis, including Search Party and Love Life.[75]

Reception[edit]

HBO Max received mixed reception from media observers on launch. The range of available content was generally well received, but many commented on the likelihood of confusion with HBO's other since-deprecated streaming platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now, and the service's higher subscription price compared to other newly-launched streaming platforms like Disney+.[19][76][77]

AT&T's announcement that HBO Max had only reached 4 million activated subscribers within its first month of operation was seen by many observers as a disappointment, particularly in light of Disney+ having reached 10 million subscribers within a day of launch. The New York Times's media critic Ben Smith wrote that WarnerMedia had "badly botched" the launch.[78] However, AT&T executives contended that it had been a "flawless launch" citing increased customer engagement compared to HBO Now and overall growth in total subscriptions to either HBO or HBO Max, while acknowledging that there was more to do to persuade existing HBO subscribers to start using the HBO Max apps.[79] Executives had previously noted that HBO Max was starting from a different place than other streaming services as it was building on the existing HBO subscriber base, and had to work within the constraints of many of HBO's pre-existing deals (such as those with Amazon and Roku).[80]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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