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AT&T CEO Says HBO Max Has Exceeded Subscriber Targets, Allows HBO to Grow Again

Stephanie Sengwe

HBO Max’s launch was a bit bumpy. For one, parent company WarnerMedia was deadlocked in negotiations to bring the service to Amazon Fire TVs and Roku, a process that is still on-going. But the service also launched right in the middle of the pandemic and a wrench was put in several productions—including the highly anticipated “Friends” reunion.

One of the other points of contention the company has faced has been their struggle to differentiate between services. While HBO is renowned in the market, HBO Max’s launch confused many as it wasn’t clear why the company would need another HBO-branded service when it already had HBO Go and HBO Now offering HBO content at the time.

The issue was brought up during the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live event which took place earlier today. When asked whether or not the company wants people to focus more on HBO-branded content, AT&T CEO John Stankey reiterated that HBO Max is about diversifying viewership of the brand as a whole.

“HBO has a distinct character brand and demo, associated with it. And it will maintain that. Unfortunately, that character and brand isn’t quite as broad. It’s by design looked at for a specific age profile and a specific taste,” Stankey explained. “Max is designed to broaden things a little bit, and still put very high quality content out there, may be with a slightly different approach to it than what you might see for a traditional HBO show. It broadens the capabilities of HBO Max to be used within an entire family set.”

For the company, the strategy to diversify the content offered on HBO Max has proven to be effective, as Stankey revealed they are now “growing subscribers again, where HBO had largely plateaued for five years.”

By doing this, Stankey said that HBO Max has exceeded one hour of daily viewing and skews to a younger audience. While he didn’t reveal numbers, he said that HBO Max is “ahead on subscribers” based on what the company revealed at their Investor Day last year.

In July, AT&T revealed that 4.1 million customers activated their HBO Max accounts, in their Q2 2020 earnings report. Three million of those were retail subscribers, while the rest were wholesale subscribers through AT&T. With legacy HBO at 33 million users, both services come to a combined 36.3 million U.S. subscribers. This is up from the 34.6 million in December 31, 2019.

In comparison, Disney+ added nearly 26.5 million subscribers over their first 1.5 month period, while Netflix announced they added 2.5 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada this quarter alone.

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