WarnerMedia parent company AT&T is pleased with the performance of recently launched premium streaming service HBO Max.
The US$14.99 per month streamer, which launched in May and had four million subscribers within a few weeks at the end of Q2 (split between new sign-ups and people who subscribe to the linear HBO channel through select operators), had been slammed for a “chaotic” rollout, but AT&T CEO John Stankey, speaking at the annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, said that he “couldn’t be more pleased” with its performance.
The CEO said: “I know it sometimes gets lost within the context of, there’s a company called Netflix that’s done a remarkable job of building a franchise over many years. I understand that that standard is a high standard and it’s one that we aspire to get to. But we’re not going to get there overnight. Nor are we trying to build the exact same product that Netflix has.”
Stankey also framed HBO Max against HBO’s linear growth. He said: “HBO had been stagnated at a customer count, the only time it went up a little bit was when a new season of Game of Thrones would come out and then it would kind of work back down the back side.”
Overall, the CEO said that, compared with Disney+ – which recently exceeded 60 million subscribers – Stankey said that “I think in the context of where we started this, we’ve done incredibly well,” and that Disney “had a very different set of plays to run.”
While the streamer has already surpassed its initial year one target, Stankey wasn’t rushing into adjusting expectations. “Would I like it to be more? Would I like it to be faster? Sure,” he said. “We’re not doing this for a year; We’re doing this to build a platform that can sustain for the next decade.”
The CEO also commented on the PVOD trend that emerged while cinemas were shut during the height of lockdown. The studio’s family movie Scoob! was released in this manner in a number of markets, but was quickly made available to HBO Max subscribers – a decidedly different tact to Disney, which is currently charging £19.99/US$29.99 in addition to a Disney+ subscription for summer blockbuster Mulan.
Stankey said that “the theatrical and feature business will be one that probably has a variety of different forms of distribution,” and that flexibility of distribution is “so important.”