Type of site
|Headquarters||Burbank, California, |
|Key people||Kevin Reilly (CCO)|
|Current status||In development|
HBO Max is built around WarnerMedia's HBO premium TV service and will include all of its programming, as well as a range of additional original programming and library content from all corners of WarnerMedia as well as third-party content providers.
On October 10, 2018, WarnerMedia announced that it will launch an over-the-top streaming service in late 2019, featuring content from its entertainment brands. The original plan for the service called for three tiers with a late 2019 launch. Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and CEO of WarnerMedia's parent, AT&T indicated in mid-May 2019 that it would use the HBO brand and would tie into cable operators as HBO cable subscribers would have access to the streaming service. A beta was expected in the fourth quarter of 2019 and full launch in first quarter 2020 at the time.
Otter Media was transferred in May 2019 to WarnerMedia Entertainment from Warner Bros. to take over the streaming service as Brad Bentley, executive vice president and general manager of the for direct-to-consumer development exited the post after six months. Andy Forssell transferred from being chief operating officer of Otter to replace Bentley as executive vice president and general manager while still reporting to Otter CEO Tony Goncalves, who would lead development.
On July 9, 2019, WarnerMedia announced that the service would be known as HBO Max, and would launch in spring 2020. Also announced at that time was that Friends would be taken off rival streaming service Netflix for the launch, while Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and Greg Berlanti were signed to production deals for the service. On October 29, 2019, it was announced that HBO Max will officially launch in May 2020.
On January 8, 2020, AT&T announced that Audience, a channel exclusive to subscribers of AT&T-owned TV providers such as DirecTV with some original programming, would end operations in its current format later that spring, and will transition to a barker channel for HBO Max.
Kevin Reilly, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks which includes most of the company's ad-supported entertainment channels such as TBS, TNT, and TruTV, also serves as chief content officer of HBO Max with responsibility for HBO Max-exclusive original programming and library content. Andy Forssell is the service's executive vice president and general manager while still reporting to Otter Media CEO Tony Goncalves, who leads development.
Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO, continues oversight of the core HBO service including newly-commissioned programming, but has limited involvement in Max Originals programming.
WarnerMedia Entertainment indicated that the service would have 10,000 hours of content. HBO Max will feature original programming produced for the service and draw content from the namesake HBO premium service as well as other WarnerMedia brands. On February 5, 2020, Warner Bros. announced that it would form a new label known as Warner Max to produce 8 to 10 mid-budget films for the service annually. HBO Max will also have podcasts about the films and TV series on the service. Original episodic content will be released weekly, continuing the HBO tradition, and eschewing the "binge" format made popular by Netflix. Kevin Reilly stated this was to ensure that originals would remain in the spotlight for extended periods, by letting said shows "breathe" as opposed to "fading quickly after a binge and burn". He also noted that the weekly schedule helped to drive the success of past HBO shows like Succession and Chernobyl, and became hits precisely due to their staying power.
Outside of WarnerMedia, the service will also offer titles from The Criterion Collection, and Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli (via its North American distributor GKIDS)—marking the first time that the studio's films will ever be offered on a streaming platform in the United States. HBO Max also has a long-term partnership with BBC Studios (who HBO had previously partnered with to create His Dark Materials). Over 700 episodes of content are slated to be available on the service at launch, including the first 11 seasons of the 2005 Doctor Who revival, as well as future seasons twelve through fourteen, and a variety of other shows including The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the British version of The Office. Additionally, future shows by BBC will be co-produced with HBO Max, and will launch on the service in the United States under the brand of Max Originals. HBO also extended their existing partnership with Sesame Workshop, while moving said content to the front of the HBO Max brand. All fifty seasons of Sesame Street (dating back to 1969) will be available to stream on the service. Additionally, future seasons of Sesame Street will stream exclusively on HBO Max, alongside Esme & Roy, and several new spin-offs starting with The Not Too Late Show with Elmo, Mecha Builders, and The Monster at the End of This Story. The upcoming 2022 Sesame Street movie will also stream exclusively on the service following its theatrical run.
Other third-party creators partnered with WarnerMedia to create content for the service include J.J. Abrams, Ellen DeGeneres, Lena Dunham, Greg Berlanti, Reese Witherspoon, Melissa Rosenberg, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Issa Rae, Elizabeth Banks, Conan O'Brien, Ava DuVernay, John Wells, Steven Soderbergh, Kaley Cuoco, and Mo Willems.
As with HBO's existing streaming platforms, HBO Go and HBO Now, HBO Max is not expected to include feeds of HBO's linear cable channels, nor is it expected to include any content (including original programming) from HBO's sister linear pay TV service Cinemax. AT&T chairman and CEO Randall L. Stephenson has not ruled out adding live content from Turner Sports in the future (such as the NBA on TNT, Major League Baseball on TBS, and NCAA March Madness).
With the start of the 2019–20 television season, series on The CW produced by Warner Bros. Television that debut from that season on, starting with Batwoman and Katy Keene, will have their seasons placed on HBO Max a month before the newest season premieres. However, existing CW shows such as the pre-Batwoman Arrowverse shows, Riverdale, and Supernatural, will continue stream on Netflix due to a pre-established deal between The CW and the rival service. Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and Greg Berlanti were signed to production deals for an initial four movies in the young-adult genre and two films, respectively.
HBO Max will also host a variety of Japanese anime by way of Crunchyroll, a subsidiary of Otter Media and by extension WarnerMedia following AT&T's purchase of the company. Content will be curated quarterly by experts at the subsidiary, in order to keep the experience fresh and to avoid cluttering the service with low-quality content.
In terms of animation, HBO Max is said to have a large library of content directed to fans both young and old, emphasizing both the Warner Bros. signature Looney Tunes brand, and the acquired Hanna-Barbera franchise, including those of Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. Likewise, it will feature an extensive number of shows from the libraries of both the kid-friendly Cartoon Network and its mature programming block Adult Swim, and the many shows and movies created in-house by Warner Bros. Animation. There are also animated series that will be completely exclusive to the service, with said animation to play a key role in their strategy.
On October 29, 2019, HBO Max beat out bidders such as NBCUniversal's Peacock and Disney's Hulu in claiming exclusive domestic streaming rights to South Park and the next three seasons in a shared deal with Viacom (which at the time of the announcement was in the process of merging with CBS Corporation, with the merged company called ViacomCBS).
The same day, it was confirmed that all three seasons of Rick and Morty will be available on HBO Max. It was confirmed on the HBO Max Twitter account that WarnerMedia properties like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Robot Chicken, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Samurai Jack, The Bachelor, Impractical Jokers, The O.C., The West Wing, The History of Comedy, The Movies, This Is Life with Lisa Ling, United Shades of America and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown will be available, as well as films such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Shining, A Star is Born, Singin' in the Rain, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Joker.
The content of HBO Max is selected and designed based on three core demographics: "Kids & Family", "Millenials & Gen Z", and "Adult".
Existing subscribers to HBO Now that are billed directly through HBO will be automatically given access to HBO Max upon its launch at no additional charge (both services share the same price point); the transition of customers who subscribed to HBO Now via third-party distributors (such as Apple TV and Roku) is still subject to negotiation and customers have been advised to wait for further details. Existing HBO subscribers on AT&T-owned television providers (including DirecTV) will also receive the service on-launch, although it is unknown if this is only a promotional offer.
WarnerMedia announced a distribution agreement for HBO Max (as well as HBO and Cinemax) through the YouTube TV vMVPD service on February 21, 2020. The company also hopes to resell HBO Max through other pay TV providers such as Comcast and Charter Communications (who acquired Warner's former cable division that was spun off in 2009, in May 2016); these are still subject to negotiation, and it is not yet clear whether HBO Max would be added automatically to these providers' existing HBO subscriptions.
There are plans for HBO Max to introduce an ad-supported tier by 2021.
Localized versions of HBO Max are scheduled to launch in 2020 in Latin America and 2021 in parts of Europe where HBO already directly operates premium TV or streaming services. In other countries, WarnerMedia says it plans to continue working with HBO's existing licensing partners for the time being.
In Canada, Bell Media, which carries HBO programming on its Crave streaming service and related pay TV channels, announced an expanded partnership with WarnerMedia for rights to HBO Max-commissioned scripted programming produced by Warner Bros. and its subsidiaries. The deal does not automatically include rights to HBO Max series produced by third-party studios, or library streaming rights for shows like Friends, which remains with Netflix in Canada.
WarnerMedia also renewed its output deal with European satellite TV provider Sky (now owned by rival Comcast) in the latter's core markets including the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Sky will continue to carry the main HBO service's programming on its channels including Sky Atlantic, Sky Crime and Sky Comedy through at least 2024, and extended its rights to various programming from Warner Bros. and the former Turner channels. Sky's most recent renewal includes a provision for co-productions between HBO Max and Sky Studios, but there has been no specific confirmation about broadcast rights to other HBO Max original programming.
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