HBO Max’s May 27 launch came at a very tricky time. On one hand, the world was completely locked down, with people wondering about the averse effects COVID-19 would have on their finance; on the other hand, because there was no where to go, people turned to streaming services to occupy any extra hours they had on their hands.
For HBO Max, the coronavirus-induced lockdowns meant a halt in all productions which means some of the original programming that was supposed to launch with the service had to be pushed back. One of those productions was the highly anticipated “Friends” reunion, which has been postponed twice at this point.
While the pandemic may have slowed down production on new content, it seems HBO Max customers have taken to the classics offered on the platform. During their third quarter earnings call today, AT&T CEO John Stankey revealed that the company’s robust library has managed to grip their customers.
“The customer acquisition game is an originals game, the customer retention game in SVOD is the library game. Our library is performing incredibly strong, relative to our customer base. We had an objective of how many minutes a day we wanted our customers to engage with Max, we’ve well-exceeded our expectations on that,” Stankey explained.
“It’s on the strength of the library and the best part about that is that it’s largely our owned library…not what we’re releasing from others. I think in our top 10 library shows right now there are one or two leased pieces of content, but the rest is our own intellectual property.”
While the streaming service has done fairly well given the circumstances, the company is confident they would have done better if the situation were different.
“The pandemic put us in a tough spot on originals—we didn’t have the funnel we [wanted]…we couldn’t finish a lot of the work we had underway. It’s that stream of originals that allows you to grow the customer base,” Stankey stated. “I’m not disappointed—we’re well ahead of what our initial plans were—but nonetheless, we know we could have done better if we had the line up of robust originals that we had originally slated.”
Despite the slight hiccups, customers have already taken to some of the original content on HBO Max. In June, Sarah Aubrey, HBO Max’s head of original content, revealed that of all the originals that launched on the platform on May 27, the Anna Kendrick-helmed series “Love Life” had gotten the largest response. The company went on to renew the series for a second season.