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HBO Max Has No Plans For Live Sports in 2021, Ad-Supported Tier Won’t Have New Theatrical Releases

Jason Gurwin, Jeff Kotuby

During their 2021 AT&T Analyst & Investor Day, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar detailed what’s to come for HBO Max this year. While they announced that they will roll-out a new ad-supported tier in June, what won’t be coming is live sports.

“We don’t have plans this year in terms of live sports. We certainly are fortunate to have relationships with some of the most premium sports that exist in terms of live events. But we don’t have any plans this year with regards to HBO Max and live sports in the U.S. market,” said Kilar.

This is a different strategy than Paramount+, Peacock, and Hulu – which are leaning into sports. Paramount+ includes live NFL and Champions League, Peacock has Premier League and WWE, while Hulu will offer 75 NHL games in 2021-2022.

In 2019, Former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that HBO Max would lean into their live sports assets. He stated, “As you think about NBA, Major League Baseball—content rights that are held by the Turner Companies—those are important variables and they have been very important in making Turner very unique content as we market it to other distributors, but also as we begin to put that content on our HBO Max platform. This won’t be at the early stages of HBO Max, but you should assume that ultimately HBO Max will have live elements.”

But, Kilar did share that when the new ad-supported tier in June, what will and won’t be included. The ad-supported tier won’t include Warner Bros. theatrical releases, the same day as theaters, like the ad-free tier. This means fans of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” and “Dune,” among others, will have to either subscribe to the ad-free tier of HBO Max or head to the theaters to see these films.

Kilar said all other content, including Max Originals will be included in the ad-supported tier — and that not all content will have ads. “We will not be having advertising inside the HBO Original Series,” said Kilar.

During the Morgan Stanley TMT Conference, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar was highly optimistic about HBO Max’s potential ad-supported option. “I do believe we’re going to see uptake in people choosing the ad-supported option of HBO Max,” Kilar said. “And that of course is going to create lots of inventory for our advertising team to be able to sell to marketers.”

And more content is coming, “as the business grows, our investment in content will proceed accordingly…we have a 98-year library of content, intellectual property, and the opportunity to lean in to that.”

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