What is HBO Max, the latest streaming service vying for dominance?

11 Jul 2019

Still from ‘HBO Max – WarnerMedia’s New Streaming Service (Official Promo)’. Image: HBO Max/YouTube.

Major firms around the world are all hoping to win the race to become the most dominant force in the world of streaming. So what is HBO Max, AT&T’s upcoming offering?

There will soon be a new player entering the increasingly crowded and lucrative world of video streaming subscription services. HBO Max, the latest offering from WarnerMedia, will launch in early 2020.

HBO already has two different streaming services – HBO Go and HBO Now, both of which are only available to US residents. HBO Max, however, is being touted as WarnerMedia’s direct competitor to Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and the soon-to-arrive Disney+.

As well as featuring HBO programming such as Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Big Little Lies and a catalogue of original programming, the service promises to incorporate content from CNN, DC, New Line Cinema, Tru TV, Cartoon Network and more from WarnerMedia’s extensive portfolio. The Wall Street Journal reports that it will cost a little more than HBO’s current pricing for its HBO Go service and could come in in the range of $16 to $17, though WarnerMedia has declined to confirm this.

Launching the streaming service has been a major priority ever since telecoms giant AT&T acquired WarnerMedia, formerly Time Warner, in 2018 for $85.4bn. As of yet, how soon the service will go international remains unclear.

Friends exclusive

Part of the HBO Max announcement contained a revelation that may make some Netflix investors squirm – the iconic sitcom Friends is set to be exclusively licensed through the platform.

Netflix famously acquired the show for its platform for a staggering $100m. Despite the show concluding some 15 years ago, third-party ratings indicate that it is the one of the most-watched shows on Netflix, alongside The Office, which Netflix is also set to lose to NBC. Presumably, HBO Max is hoping to lure some subscribers away from Netflix with this move.

However, Friends will still be available internationally, which is where Netflix experiences a lot of growth. In Netflix’s latest earning reports, a weak forecast spooked investors enough for the share price to fall 1pc overnight. The company insisted it wasn’t fazed by new entrants to the market and didn’t think they would materially affect its growth.

Also advertising major DC projects such as Batwoman and the 2017  Justice League film, the soon-to-arrive HBO Max could turn it into an extremely formidable competitor, and Netflix’s insistence that it isn’t worried may fail to placate shareholders.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic