WarnerMedia has announced its own video streaming service for the US market.
Called HBO Max, it will arrive in May 2020 with over 10,000 hours of premium content that customers will be able to access for $14.99 per month. That library will include originals from filmmakers Ridley Scott, Greg Berlanti and Issa Rae, as well as an upcoming series called House of the Dragon as co-created by Ryan Condal and George RR. Martin.
In support, there will be plenty of current and older favourites from subsidiaries of WarnerMedia such as – deep breath – CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth and Looney Tunes.
HBO Max will also be stocked with over 1800 films at launch, spanning all genres from HBO, Warner Bros. New Line Cinema and DC. That means blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, the Lego movies, Aquaman, Joker and every Batman and Superman movie from the last 40 years. Third-party acquired series and movies will also be available. Take a look at the full list of HBO Max content here.
HBO Max will include many of the regular features that the likes of Netflix and Prime Video offer, including offline downloads, profiles, content hubs, kids’ content and parental controls. It will also be trialing a 'Recommended by Humans' discovery service curated by – yes – actual humans as opposed to purely algorithms.
There will also be a 'Co-Viewing' mode that will act as a profile in its own right, providing programme suggestions for people who like to watch together without messing up their individual profile algorithms.
Existing AT&T, HBO and HBO Now customers will get HBO Max for free at launch. Free bundles will also be offered along with AT&T’s Premium Video, Mobile and Broadband packages.
With its ownership of AT&T, that will springboard WarnerMedia's new service to an instant customer base of 10 million people over the US but the company is targeting a domestic audience of 75-90 million subscribers across the US, Latin America and Europe by the end of 2025. Although no dates have been fixed for a European launch yet, WarnerMedia has been clear these two latter continents are the focus for the next phase of distribution.
Sky customers in the UK to benefit
However, Sky has just announced that it has renewed its long-term partnership with WarnerMedia for both content rights and collaborative productions for Sky TV and Now TV customers. This means continued access to Warner Bros. and Turner films as well as HBO series.
Sky Studios and HBO Max will produce more original programming for the Sky Atlantic channel off the back of this announcement and the huge success of the multiple Emmy-winning Chernobyl.
It seems likely that Sky customers will be among the first in Europe to get access to the HBO Max streaming service and will doubtless find bundle offers on renewal of their TV and broadband deals.
There has been no mention of how else HBO Max may arrive in Europe or how the launch of the service will affect WarnerMedia-owned content on other video streaming platforms. If WarnerMedia chooses to follow the same path as Disney+, then Prime Video and Netflix could begin to look a little bare come the middle of 2020. The bottom line, though: will people be prepared to pay the premium monthly cost over the cheaper rivals?