Ahead of the debut of Disney+ The Streaming Advisor along with other industry observers fully expected the new streaming service to be a hit. With all of the cross promotion, the powerful fandom behind its assembled brands and a pretty low price for the content, the build up had the makings of a smashing success. And it totally delivered.
Because of the circumstances we face in the midst of a near societal shutdown the launch of HBO Max has a chance this summer to be much bigger event than it would have otherwise been. And it looks like the seeds are there to make this a big event.
Reporting from Variety says that streaming on HBO Now is up 40% from the previous 4 weeks. The numbers speak loud and clear. And they spread the wealth to both new original series and archived content. “Game of Thrones,” “Big Little Lies,” “Chernobyl,” and “His Dark Materials showed 50% gains in viewership while “The Wire” almost tripled its audience in the last week. Even much older content “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” saw its viewership nearly double.
What does that tell us? That all those people who had HBO Now but watched what ever was hot instead are turning to an old industry standby in the face of isolation. While we have no polling to prove it, we will venture that it is a mix of escapism and nostalgia driving the numbers. With millions of people with nowhere to go HBO Now and other streaming services will have a truly captive audience in a way very different from say an east coast blizzard.
Enter a shinny new toy. When HBO Max rolls out this summer it could end up being medicinal to those looking for something else to think about. With numerous new originals in tow along with the series Friends the streaming option will have something for everybody including the vast majority of content that people are currently viewing on HBO Now. While Warner has never stated it, we believe that HBO Max will actually convert HBO Now customers to being HBO Max customers. All of the HBO Now Apps will get an update and boom the subscribers will be HBO Max subs instead.
Why? Because both services cost the same thing. The content found on HBO Now is found on HBO Max, and the names of the services are so similar it invites confusion that will not be at all helpful if the plan is to keep both going. What’s that service that lets you see HBO content without cable called? HBO Go, HBO Max, HBO Now? They all sound like tiered versions of the same service. Warner can simplify things by having one option for the non traditional viewer. HBO Max will not only provide the option for HBO fans it gives viewers a way to explore content from its other brands like TNT and TBS.
So here is how we think it will go down. HBO will convert its HBO Now customers, and cash in on a country full of people who want something new. They can’t go to the store and buy anything new but they can stay home and transform their TV and movie viewing experience. By converting HBO Now customers to HBO Max customers it will allow Warner Media to showcase the big launch numbers. And the enthusiasm associated with the return of Friends to streaming after being pulled from Netflix will be an additional boost.
The viewership numbers on Turner TV properties are higher since lockdowns went in place meaning that the company has a ready audience for cross promotional campaigns. In fact as bad as it might seem for the company to lose out on the NCAA tournament this year, the fact that people have not tuned in to the first week or so of the tournament, which stands as one of the most watched single events of the year has been replaced by people tuning in and discovering comfort TV instead. And this audience will be sticking around a lot longer due to the duration of Covid 19.
HBO Max has a chance to become not just successful but beloved. People need to see that the whole world has not stopped in place. And while content creation and production has stopped for the time being HBO Max will come with much needed new and familiar faces at a time when people need to be reminded that we are still who we are. HBO Max could end up being comfort food for the soul in a dark time. Here’s to hoping that it starts with the iconic HBO logo flying over the mountains to bring us new classics.