After an initial period where the outcome might be decided by a coin toss, now HBO Max, the streaming service of WarnerMedia, has firmly established its presence in the exclusive streaming market and will not buckle any time soon. How could it, when its 2021 first quarter saw an impressive growth in subscribers that numbers up to multiple millions. Having the service become an alternative release platform for blockbuster films with limited theatrical release options was a big boost. Now there is another perk coming, as HBO Max prepares to launch a new subscription tier supported by advertising, and therefore more accessible to new viewers.
CNBC has it that AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia is getting ready to introduce its ad-supported subscription rate for HBO Max that will be available starting this June. For $9.99 a month and ads attached to HBO Max exclusives, lots of cool content will soon be available for those who think HBO Max’s initial ad-free rate of $14.99 is a tad steep. For North American viewers still okay with pay TV, $9.99 is the same asking price for adding HBO Premium to one’s channel bundle, and that was only thanks to push-back from said pay TV distributors.
The year before, WarnerMedia had contemplated pegging the ad-supported sub tier price at $4.99, only for pay TV distributors to cry foul, as their price for customers to get HBO’s premium bundle costs $5 more. That would have driven more viewers to online streaming. And the decision to restrict advertising only on HBO Max exclusive content, as explained by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, was to keep the experience relatively clean and not have the service come across as an ad-hog.
With this new arrangement in place, distributors are now more amenable to taking HBO Max on, with the possibility of offering them to subscribers who have not added HBO to their channels, or customers who have broadband connections only. Carriage deals have also somehow been worked out between Amazon and Roku, although the ad-supported tier was a major point of contention in negotiations. Should the $9.99 rate pan out, as June 2021 goes by HBO Max subscription numbers could see another surge, now that they have 44.2 million in the US alone, better placing them as a serious competition for old guard like Netflix and rival exclusive platforms like Disney+.
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