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AT&T CEO Says Company Doesn’t Expect to See HBO Max Subscriber Spikes Each Quarter

Stephanie Sengwe

Earlier today, AT&T announced that after launching “Wonder Woman 1984” on the platform on Christmas Day, HBO Max and HBO reached 41.5 million subscribers at the end of Q4 2020. This is an increase of 3.5 million from the 38.5 million they had at the end of Q3, and nearly seven million increase in 2020.

HBO Max also benefited from the fact that they reached deals to bring the platform to Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices in the quarter. The two platforms reach over 100 million streamers.

With the HBO Max performing so well in the quarter, it seems as though accusations that WarnerMedia’s decision to simultaneously debut their 2021 film slate on HBO Max and theaters was geared to boost subscribers for the platform are true. However, during the company’s Q4 2020 earning’s call, AT&T CEO John Stankey explained that they’re not expecting each film on the docket to pull the same numbers as “Wonder Woman 1984” did.

“There’s a difference between what I call a tentpole release and a non-tentpole release. ‘WonderWoman’ and the nature of that production value and what occurs in it is different than the balance of many of the other movies in our slate. We have other tentpole releases that occur throughout the 2021 release schedule that are going to be equally as buzz worthy as ‘WonderWoman’ and in-between those, we have other high quality offerings catered to a less broad audience,” Stankey explained.

“That’s the power in doing what we did in bringing the entire slate to our end user base. We’re going to see a little spikiness in what occurs. We’re not going to see the kind of subscriber spikes that maybe we saw in December and early January, every time we put a movie out. We do have the opportunity to build marketing and promotional opportunities around the bigger releases that have broader buzz and broader application across the customer base.”

Stankey also went on to address some of the backlash that the company has been facing for choosing the hybrid model. “I want to stress that this is a unique year. The dynamic of the media and the press was a little oversold or little intense surrounding this, from my point of view. We told you, when the team decided to make this move, we thought it was appropriate for this moment in time…Since we articulated that, the data points have come in that have been very consistent with the set of assumptions we had at the front end of that,” he stated.

“In the last several weeks, you’ve seen other studios continuing to snow plough releases, moving them into the second half of the year…We don’t believe that just because there’s more content showing up at the theaters all at the same time, that’s going to dramatically increase the size of the moving going population.”

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