Cable Tech

AT&T sets May 27 launch for HBO Max

HBO Max is set for liftoff.

HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new supersized SVoD service, will launch May 27 and make its national debut with a slate of new original content, AT&T announced Tuesday.

HBO Max's national launch will come ahead of the planned July 15 national launch of NBCUniversal's Peacock, a new streaming service that is currently getting an early preview on Comcast's X1 platform and Flex service. NBCU said last week that Peacock's national launch date could be moved up.

HBO Max, which starts at $14.99 per month, will take advantage of WarnerMedia's array of properties, including Warner Bos, CNN, TNT, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim Crunchyroll, TCM and Looney Tunes. The service will boot up with about 10,000 hours of content, essentially doubling what's available on the legacy HBO service.

Examples of "Max Originals" that will be available on launch day include scripted comedy Love Life starring Anna Kendrick; On The Record, a documentary about music exec Drew Dixon that premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; "underground" ballroom dance competition series Legendary; Craftopia, a kids crafting competition hosted by YouTuber LaurDIY (Lauren Riihimaki); and new Looney Tunes cartoons from Warner Bros. Animation. Check out the trailer for Love Life below:

HBO Max has teed up several more originals for the fall, including The Flight Attendant, based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian; an unscripted Friends cast reunion special; Raised by Wolves, a sci-fi series from Ridley Scott; and a three-part documentary focused on the life of comedian Amy Schumer.

Despite entering a crowded field of general entertainment, direct-to-consumer SVoD services dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and newcomer Disney+, WarnerMedia has set a goal for HBO Max to sign up 75 million to 90 million subs worldwide (including 50 million in the US) by 2025. An ad-supported version of HBO Max is expected to launch sometime in 2021.

To help hit those goals, HBO Max will be sold as a standalone, direct-to-consumer service, and be distributed to AT&T's tens of millions of mobile, video and broadband customers. WarnerMedia has also carved out initial distribution deals with YouTube TV and Charter Communications, with more pay-TV partners expected to join the list prior to the May 27 launch.

HBO Max's sub base will be primed with millions early on as AT&T pay-TV customers that currently get the legacy HBO service will be auto-converted to HBO Max at no added charge.

Customers on certain AT&T wireless, TV and broadband plans will also get HBO Max included for no extra charge. Examples include AT&T mobile customers on the Unlimited Elite plan, customers that take AT&T's fiber-fed 1-Gig broadband service, U-verse subs on the U400 and U450 plan and DirecTV customers on the satellite TV provider's Premier package. AT&T TV, the company's new OTT-delivered, contract-based service that runs on an Android TV box, is also launching a tier called "Now Max" that will bundle in the new streaming service.

AT&T is expected to discuss HBO Max's launch plan in further detail when the company details its first quarter 2020 results Wednesday morning.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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