HBO Max coming to Europe as Warner Bros pivots to direct-to-stream releases

4 Dec 2020

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Alongside a major announcement by Warner Bros to bring its 2021 film releases direct to HBO Max, the streaming platform has revealed plans for its global roll-out.

Andy Forssell, head of HBO Max Global, announced that the streaming platform would be expanding into Latin America and Europe in the second half of 2021.

The announcement was delivered at the Web Summit following a major decision by Warner Bros to release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max on the same date as the theatrical release.

Forssell told the virtual audience at Web Summit that HBO will be upgrading its existing direct-to-consumer HBO services in Europe to HBO Max. This translates into a doubling of content available to viewers in Europe, as well as the addition of HBO Max-specific capabilities.

The ultimate goal, Forssell told interviewer Laurie Segall, will be to bring HBO Max to 190 countries worldwide. “It’s just a matter of how fast we can do that,” he said.

Direct to streaming

Forssell and his team are responsible for the global roll-out and operations of HBO Max and the upcoming HBO Max advertising-based video-on-demand offering.

His Web Summit announcement comes just as HBO Max landed a windfall film distribution deal for 2021.

Warner Bros film studio has agreed to release its entire slate of films for 2021 direct to HBO Max on the same day as their scheduled theatrical release in the US. Described by Warner Bros as a hybrid distribution model, it has not yet been confirmed if these releases will hit the international HBO Max services that go live in 2021.

A representative from Warner Bros Canada told Now Magazine that, at present, releases in Canada will “launch theatrically along with other worldwide territories”.

Hybrid distribution

Warner Bros’ 2021 catalogue includes Dune, a sci-fi reboot that was originally due for release in 2020. The studio previously announced that Wonder Woman 1984 would have a same-day streaming release on Christmas Day in the US.

These films will be available on HBO Max for one month following the release date, while theatrical releases could run for longer.

Anticipating that cinemas will continue to suffer from audience restrictions under the pandemic throughout 2021, Warner Bros has committed to this streaming distribution model for one year.

The dramatic turn for the film industry has been led by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who was the founding CEO of Hulu, a US streaming service.

Launched in the US earlier this year, the HBO Max streaming platform faced early challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Platform-exclusive shows that were either mid-production or about to start had to be suspended amid efforts to contain the spread of the virus. However, Casey Bloys, chief content officer of both HBO and HBO Max, said they are now almost back to pre-Covid production levels.

HBO Max currently plays host to such dramatic TV hits as The Sopranos, The Wire and the more recent Succession. To separate itself from streaming competitors, the platform leads claim to champion human curation alongside a data-led recommendations engine.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

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