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Why HBO Max Left Amazon Prime Video… and Why It May Return

Ben Bowman

When HBO Max first launched, it was available as a channel on Amazon Prime Video. Most new streaming services use Prime Video to get a foothold when they launch. But when the streamers get enough subscribers, they tend to leave Prime Video. Why is that? And why might HBO Max be the first service to come back?

The Prime Video Jump-Start

Prime Video is home to roughly 117 million subscribers worldwide. That makes it one of the biggest players in the industry, within spitting distance of Disney+. By offering a new streaming service as a Prime Video channel, a company can tap into that enormous audience to get itself off the ground.

This is a benefit to Prime Video users, since they can add more content within the Prime Video interface, and most add-on subscriptions are very reasonably priced.

Prime Video benefits by making its video marketplace more of a one-stop shop, and the company also gets to harvest its most prized possession: user data. Amazon is investing heavily in all kinds of ways to monitor humans, from the voice data of its Alexa and Echo products to the viewing data of Fire TV. Additional viewing behavior information helps Prime Video plan its own content investments.

Why HBO Max Left Prime Video

In August of 2021, HBO Max exited the Prime Video ecosystem. There were two major reasons.

1. HBO Max Didn’t Need Prime Video

Thanks to the industry cannonball that was “Project Popcorn,” every 2021 Warner Bros. film arrived on HBO Max the same day as it hit theaters. That sent subscribers racing to the platform. HBO finished the year with 73.8 million subscribers, up from 41.5 million to end 2022.

While WarnerMedia may have lost box office revenue, the subscriber growth may have been worth the gamble.

When HBO Max left Prime Video, it lost 5 million subscribers in the process. That’s a big number, but just a fraction of the total audience. Many of those users simply migrated to the standalone HBO Max. When a streamer has the scale of an HBO Max, it’s better to consolidate the audience, rather than using its service to help a rival like Amazon.

2. HBO Max Wanted All Its Data

Especially as HBO Max has launched an ad-supported tier, the service is a more compelling proposition for advertisers if HBO Max can deliver specific user data. What are their viewing habits? Are there children in the home? What kind of device are they streaming with? The ability to target users with ads is one of the most highly-prized features in today’s digital economy.

When HBO Max was a Prime Video channel, Amazon got to pull HBO’s user data for its own purposes. The data doesn’t flow the other way — HBO Max got no additional insight from Prime Video’s non-HBO subscribers.

Related: What Are All the Premium Channels You Can Add to Your Amazon Prime Video Subscription?

Why HBO Max May Return to Prime Video

In the most recent Warner Bros. Discovery earnings call, the company announced it would be “implementing an HBO Max distribution strategy aimed at wider availability vs. retail-only.”

As new CEO David Zaslav is interested in maximizing all revenue, he seems willing to pull any lever to make that happen, even if it means losing the subscriber data exclusivity HBO Max currently enjoys.

Beyond Prime Video, we could also see HBO Max appearing as an option on Roku Channel or similar platforms. The lure of additional audience may be too much to ignore.

Remember that discovery+ has always been available as a Prime Video channel, and Zaslav has always been in charge of that platform. The tea leaves suggest HBO Max will follow the lead of discovery+.

If Zaslav felt the smarter strategy was to move a streamer away from Prime Video, he would have done that with discovery+ already.

Ultimately, flexibility provides better options for consumers, but the question remains if it’s the smartest strategy for a business. With HBO Max, what David Zaslav wants, David Zaslav gets.

HBO Max

HBO Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals, and access to every Warner Bros. film on HBO Max on the same day that it hits theaters.

HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-supported plan for TBD and ad-free plan for € 8.99. HBO Max without ads also includes features like the ability to download offline and 4K streaming.

Subscribers will have access to hit HBO series like Succession, Mare of Easttown, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more.

All HBO Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.

They also will get Max Originals that aren’t available to HBO channel subscribers, like “The Flight Attendant” (Kaley Cuoco), “Love Life” (Anna Kendrick), as well as reboots to “Sex In The City” and “Gossip Girl.”

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