HBO Max is poised to win the summer. The new service which is a combination of HBO’s massive catalogue and assets from Turner along with some high profile licensed content will debut May 27.
First of all, the service is going to launch with a lot of subscribers baked in. While most streaming services have to build a brand and sell consumers on a concept or even a slate of shows there will be millions of HBO Max customers immediately. Why is that? Because Warner Media already has customers who subscribe to HBO and HBO Now. HBO subscribers do so the old fashioned way via their cable or satellite provider. HBO Now is a streaming service built for users who cannot subscribe to HBO through their provider. Both cohorts will automatically receive HBO Max when it launches. On top of that AT&T, which owns HBO Max is going to incorporate customers with Unlimited Elite, Internet 1000 and other data plans. Those customers will be given access as part of their regular service.
So every HBO customer every HBO Now customer and every high end data user on AT&T’s network will be HBO Max customers to start. That ensures that a month in HBO Max will be able to tout numbers that match up with the already established services much better than many who have jumped in the game recently.
There are a lot of reasons why HBO Max could prove to be a big hit as we enter the summer.
HBO is not the Last Streaming Service To launch
There is a narrative that HBO Max was late to the game for streaming services. To make such a claim is rather legalistic at best and purely ignorant at worst. To pretend like this company is starting off behind services CBS All-Access or Quibi is ridiculous. Why? Because HBO has been in the streaming game since the early days of streaming. HBO Go was one of the first premium cable TV everywhere options on platforms like Roku. And HBO Now has been on the market for years delivering all of HBO’s content on demand even minutes after it airs live. It already established the idea of accessing HBO original content along with studio content. So let’s not act like this service is starting from square 1. It has also had time to make mistakes. There have been crashes due to high profile premiers like Game Of Thrones. This has given HBO/AT&T/Warner Media a chance to learn how to deal with multiple subscribers accessing content at the same time. HBO Now is not so much a new service as it is a rebranding and content acquisition event. It creates much more buzz to announce it like a new idea than it does to just say, HBO Now will be getting Turner based content including classic films and shows from TVT, TBS , etc.
There are going to be people out there who have never heard of HBO Now who will say “Wow HBO is starting a new service that I can get without cable and look at all the stuff that will be on it.” All of the clickbait headline sites that dominate space on platforms like Yahoo will eat this story up. You will totally see headlines like HBO Has a new service just for cord cutters!
The Service Will Actually Be Good
Marketing aside it is important that a service has deliverables. HBO Max does. The reason HBO Now has worked is that people like that content. And it has continued to grow. And almost everything that HBO ever produced will be there from the start. But to concentrate on HBO is to ignore Warner Brothers and Turners massive library of content. It is no accident that the Wizard of Oz is featured on HBO Max commercials. It highlights the fact that Turners 100 year old library is coming along for the ride. Will every movie Turner owns the rights to be available at launch? No. Unlike the HBO content the plan at the moment is for there to be a rotation of classic movies. The content will be the kind of fair found on Turner Classic Movies. This means that HBO Max will have a rather extensive film library to choose from and give it potential to attract a much wider audience. The addition of the Big Bang Theory and Friends to the service could be a big winner as well. While I don’t think either of the shows on their own can drive the service, people looking to stream either will discover the service through that avenue. But HBO Max is not simply resting on those laurels as it has over 60 new shows or continuations of successful properties on the way. The newest content is going to have to be put off unfortunately because filming in Hollywood shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But once we can move on from that as a country HBO Max has tons of stuff in the pipeline. In fact because things will be staggered as they roll out it means that month after month there will be a new headline “Green Lantern Launches ahead of …. DC movie”. Again it will create buzz.
It Will End Confusion
HBO Now should have never launched. HBO should have simply said if you don’t have cable you can sign up for HBO Go and enjoy everything HBO has to offer. But instead HBO launched a new app that was almost indistinguishable from HBO Go, with the same programming and had to create a whole new marketing campaign. HBO customers never got their head around it. Lots of people who had one didn’t know the difference from the other one. Some thought that they had both. A search on a streaming device would pull up both, a question like “How Do You Steam Game Of Thrones?” would return conflicting answers. But you can see the end game already. The reason HBO Max will be available to customers who have HBO Now and customers who subscribe to HBO through a cable or satellite company is because HBO Max will replace HBO Now and HBO Go. There will be one uniform HBO app with two different ways to access it. And of course they will also access the rest of the content. No more questions about what is the difference between this and that. HBO has not explicitly said so, but it is obviously baked in. They will probably give customers time to start getting used to things before the change but I would expect that at some point users will sign into HBO Now and HBO Go and get a message like “You can enjoy all of your favorite HBO content on our new service HBO Max, Just sign in with your user name or authenticate with your provider credentials.” Then there will be a button to click that will launch the app. Likely there will be two sign in options sign in with your provider or enter your member name. If they are smart it will even give users the ability to just click on something that signs them in automatically before it launches. I imagine a short info video welcoming them to the new experience and that will be that. In the end it will lead to a much less confusing situation and there will not be people screaming because they pay for HBO Now but can’t see some new HBO show because it is on HBO Max. None of the “Oh so now I have to sign up for yet another service just to watch this one show!” comments.
It will be DC’s real Answer to Marvel on Disney Plus
Disney+ is the future home of all Marvel content. At the moment there is content from Marvel on multiple platforms with a number titles on Netflix or Disney+. For instance Avengers Infinity War is on Netflix while Avengers Endgame is on Disney+. Once Disney is done with its Netflix agreements all of the content will be in one place. HBO Max will be very much the same for the Warner Brothers DC comics films. At the moment there is a small streaming service called DC Universe. It launched before Warner and AT&T merged and features a large collection of DC animated movies, access to older DC based movies including things like Christopher Reeve’s Superman films and even the Wonder Woman TV series. But with Doom Patrol, a DC Universe original as well as the new DC series airing on CW like Batgirl and Star Girl on the way to HBO Max as their seasons end the future seems pretty clear. Expect HBO Max to pull in all of the video content from DC Universe. This way the Titans can be in the same neighborhood as Batman Begins or the New Green Lantern show. DC Universe launched. Will HBO Max break out its various properties the way Disney+ does? To be honest they should.
HBO Max does have a weakness
One thing we have not talked about much is kids content. This might be a place where HBO Max has some work cut out for itself. At the moment HBO is home to Sesame Street. That is an undeniable draw, but while Disney has a trove of princes adventures and Pixar etc HBO Max will be leaning on Hannah Barbara, a brand that has more kitsch that catch with kids. Baby boomers may grin at the idea of the Jetsons but kids won’t bat an eye. HBO Max will have other fare like Looney Tunes and even Adventure time. But it will be hard to paint a service that includes the Sopranos, Rick and Morty and Game Of Thrones as the place for family friendly entertainment. The kids stuff feels a lot more like a throw in. HBO has always been a leader in groundbreaking standards pushing TV. HBO has a whole channel just called HBO has a linear channel called HBO Family to keep it all separate. Making it all fit in could be a challenge. It is not likely to lose it customers. But posters showing Sansa Stark, Elmo and Daphne from Scooby-Doo side by side reminds me of the Sesame Street segment called one of these things is not like the other. One show teaches counting, one show is about exposing bad guys and their dastardly schemes and the other features full frontal male and female nudity, rape and incest. This is the advantage Disney has with Hulu existing along side of Disney+. One is a PG13 world and the other is across the board. Meaning Aliens does not exist in the same space as Monsters Inc.