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HBO Max Reaches Unexpected 37 Million Subscribers, Adds Better Prediction

HBO Max Reaches Unexpected 37 Million Subscribers, Adds Better Prediction

AT&T announced their fledgling service hit expectations, 2 years early, bolstered by strong streaming flicks like Wonder Woman 1984.

AT&T announced their fledgling service hit expectations, 2 years early, bolstered by strong streaming flicks like Wonder Woman 1984.

Credit | WarnerMedia

AT&T’s WarnerMedia’s HBO’s HBO Max streaming service has outperformed the company’s expectations, passing expected subscriber counts for two years in the future. As AT&T CEO John Stankey said,

“The release of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ helped drive our domestic HBO Max and HBO subscribers to more than 41 million, a full two years faster than our initial forecast.”

It seems as though 2020 helped HBO pull out all the stops for their fledgling streaming service HBO Max, with December’s Wonder Woman 1984 release pushing the service to subscriber records. Buoyed by an eight month long distribution deal with Roku, and a sudden WW1984 Christmas announcement, over 17 million users activated HBO Max service, and 37 million subscribed total.

The dynamic duo pushes 40

HBO Max isn’t the only HBO service, having replaced fellow HBO Go and HBO Now, as well as sort of HBO, although the existing HBO base is being slowly folded in, if you’re not a legacy TV subscriber.

Combined, the two services have a total of 41.5 million subscribers, up from 38 million in September 2020. AT&T really seems to be booking hard on Wonder Woman’s impact on the service, touting the watch numbers and additional subscribers gained from the action film.

While not all subscribers are HBO Max exclusive, a decent amount are there. AT&T’s been trying hard for all HBO subscribers to fold into HBO Max, while adding in more customers with additional content not available in base HBO. It’s seemed semi-successful, with original projections expected the vast majority of HBO Max customers coming from past HBO subscriptions.

Luckily for AT&T however, the 17.17 million activated customers, from either legacy HBO or new deals with existing providers, make up less than half of the total HBO Max subscriber base, a major sign for the service, as most subscribers were expected to have come from already existing subscriptions or from new deals.

A mediocre launch

HBO Max has really been a rotten egg for slowly rotting AT&T. Like the company, the service didn’t receive much fan fair for its first few weeks, excluding the memes over the now four types of HBO. Many early challenges are in play, including:

  1. Confusing branding – there were four HBOs at one point. They all cost the same, but they didn’t all have the same content. HBO used to be the most superior version of HBO, with HBO Now being the app version of the TV subscription. HBO Go was just the app for those people who got HBO exclusively for an app. HBO was the TV version? But also the app? HBO Max was the max version, with all the other content and more. What?
  2. Big price – big services mean big prices. HBO has always been $15/month, a symbol of its exclusivity and premium quality programming, although that prevents it from getting into the hands of many. By launching a service at $15/month, that gave AT&T zero pricing power, as well as pushed it out of the hands of the millions that were unemployed at that point in the pandemic. Compare that to say the $5-$6 Hulu, or to Disney+, (which with no ads cost $7 per month), and to many it was a done deal to not buy it.
  3. Competition competing with even more competition – HBO Max, Netflix, Peacock, Peacock Premium, Hulu with No Ads, Hulu with Ads, Hulu + Live TV, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Quibi, CBS All Access, ESPN+, and so many more. I don’t even really need to explain it.
  4. Lack of distribution – the service that AT&T wanted to grow, wasn’t available on the two biggest streaming platforms; Roku and Amazon Fire. They just didn’t have the service. A total 200-300 million people and devices, and HBO Max just wasn’t available. HBO Now, and HBO were available, but not HBO Max.

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Building momentum

Eventually, HBO Max became available on Roku and Amazon Fire devices, adding originals like the semi-trending The Flight Attendant, and several already original HBO shows.

WarnerMedia also made the surprising decision (to consumers and the studio), to put all 2021 films on HBO Max, which you can read about here, which caused millions to jump on board their cheapened 6 month plan.

In AT&T’s earnings call, the CEO said that the streaming service had outperformed any resemblance of their planning, although not to the degree of Disney+’s absolutely massive gains. Investors were also excited about the growth of the service, especially the announcement that 2021 movies would be moving to HBO Max, which would likely push the service to higher subscriber numbers.

Now, AT&T has revised estimates of around 50 million to 55 million HBO Max subscribers within the US by 2025, the only available territory for the service. WarnerMedia is also planning on launching an ad-supported version of HBO Max in Q2, for a cheaper price, allowing more to get access to the service, increasing the potential number of subscribers on HBO Max. This should really help HBO Max flip from an underperforming service to one with a bright future.