Video services

AT&T Names & Delays New SVoD Service, HBO Max, Till 2020

WarnerMedia's new direct-to-consumer subscription OTT service now has a name and a launch date (sorta).

The AT&T-owned studio announced Tuesday that the DTC offering, to be called HBO Max, will launch commercially in the spring of 2020 and feature about 10,000 hours of content spanning movies, TV shows and new original series. The commercial launch is delayed from the company's original plan to debut the SVoD service in Q4 2019.

WarnerMedia did not announce pricing, but The Wall Street Journal reports that HBO Max will cost "slightly more" than HBO Now, which fetches $14.99 per month, and well above the $6.99 per month launch price of Disney+, an OTT service set to debut on November 12. It will also cost more than Netflix's most popular "Standard" plan, which runs $12.99 per month.

AT&T and Warner Media execs have previously said that the new SVoD offering will debut in beta form in Q4 2019. However, WarnerMedia has not announced any specific dates for that or the expected widescale commercial debut next spring.

HBO Max, a combo of the HBO and Cinemax premium video service brands, will offer streaming exclusives to series such as Friends and Pretty Little Liars and various other programming from other WarnerMedia properties and other outlets, including New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies and The CW.

Examples of "Max Originals" previously announced that will be offered on the new direct-to-consumer service include Dune: The Sisterhood, an adaptation of the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson book based on Frank Herbert's Dune series; and The Flight Attendant, a one-hour "thriller series" based on the Chris Bohjalian novel, and an animated Gremlins series. Reese Witherspoon is also on board to produce at least two movies for HBO Max.

Cue the HBO Max sizzle reel:

Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, is overseeing the development of HBO Max, with Andy Forssell, a former CEO of Hulu, in the GM role.

Why this matters
Today's reveal sheds a bit more light on the plans of AT&T and Warner Media to debut a subscription-based OTT service next year amid the ongoing threat of pay-TV cord-cutting and the continuing desire of consumers to binge on TV series and other content on an on-demand basis. It also puts WarnerMedia in position to play in a premium SVoD market that is dominated today by companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, with new OTT services already in the works from Apple, Disney and NBCUniversal.

The increased focus on exclusive streaming rights for popular catalog shows like Friends could also harm the streaming libraries of Netflix, which has been keen to license such titles alongside its pricey originals.

The plan for HBO Max also confirms that WarnerMedia is sidestepping an earlier plan to trot out a more complicated, three-tiered SVoD offering. Though HBO Max is billed as a direct-to-consumer service, AT&T executives have hinted that it will also be pay-TV friendly, likely meaning that cable operators and other distributors will also have an opportunity to sell HBO Max to their video customers.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner 7/9/2019 | 4:30:56 PM
Some updates Some quick updates from a WarnerMedia official:
-Plan remains for beta of HBO Max to surface in Q4 2019 ahead of the commercial launch in spring 2020:
-Pricing details are still TBA.
-HBO Max will be offered both as a direct-to-consumer OTT product and via WarnerMedia's pay-TV distribution partners.

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