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HBO Max Tops Rivals with Most New Subscribers in Q1 2021

Jeff Kotuby

HBO Max keeps its hot streak going with another stellar quarter. According to data from Kantar, HBO Max added the most subscribers for the second straight quarter, surpassing totals from Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and the debuting Paramount+, claiming 14.4 percent of new streaming subscribers. Kantar reports more good news for HBO Max, saying that the WarnerMedia-owned streaming services boasts the second-highest Net Promoter Score among similar services — it was ranked 10th just a year ago.

Why is HBO Max suddenly the streaming site du jour? It likely has to do with its 1-2 punch of heavy-hitting action movies. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” were no doubt the catalysts behind this explosive growth, with the latter claiming the largest HBO Max viewing audience in the service’s short history.

HBO Max even fended off not one, but two debuting services this quarter: discovery+ and Paramount+. Both new kids had nice showings, with Paramount+ taking 11.8 percent of new subscribers, while the more narrowly-focused discovery+ takes 7.7 percent. Amazon Prime Video finished second overall with 13.2 percent, but remember that some Prime members are signing up more for the other Amazon perks than the streaming service itself.

While these numbers are good news for HBO Max, a service that struggled to find subscribers early in its existence, it might be the service’s apex for a while. “Mortal Kombat” should provide a nice pop for the service but its exclusive film lineup lacks the punching power that “Justice League” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” provided. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” should attract curious eyes, but how many of those eyes will translate to paying subscribers? Similarly, James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” will bring curious eyes who enjoyed the glorious trainwreck that was David Ayers’ “Suicide Squad” — but can HBO Max get those viewers to subscribe for the long haul? HBO Max’s film lineup could struggle to garner much mainstream attention outside of these three films, with nary a superhero or giant monster in sight.

Granted, HBO Max has one remaining ace up its sleeve — the introduction of an ad-supported tier coming this June. This should lower the price point considerably and offer a new way for viewers who were sheepish of the initial $14.99 price point to get in at a lower cost and enjoy WarnerMedia’s exclusive content.

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