HBO Max Announces Debut and Unveils New Details

HBO Max, AT&T’s foray into a crowded and competitive streaming television market, will come onto the scene in May 2020, chairman of WarnerMedia entertainment and direct-to-consumer Bob Greenblatt said Tuesday

The premiere month, which Greenblatt announced during an HBO Max investor day in Burbank, Calif., means the company will have to play catchup, not just with Disney+, which is expected to be a formidable rival when it premieres Nov. 12, but with NBCUniversal’s rival streaming service Peacock, which is slated to debut in April.

Details around the HBO Max service have been highly anticipated even before AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson on Monday positioned the service as the cornerstone of the company’s “streamlined and simplified” streaming video product offering. AT&T, which last year acquired Time Warner (which has now been renamed WarnerMedia) for $85 billion, is under pressure from shareholders and an activist investor group to prove the value of the acquisition, and the company rolled out a three-year plan Monday that heavily featured the anticipated growth of HBO Max once it comes onto the scene.

AT&T expects HBO Max will attract 50 million U.S. subscribers and between 75 million and 90 million international customers by 2025, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said Tuesday. The company plans to offer up HBO Max to AT&T’s 10 million customers who also subscribe to HBO on the day of the service’s premiere for no additional cost. The company hopes the free trial which it hopes will drive buzz through word of mouth.

The service aims to attract younger viewers and more women to the WarnerMedia’s portfolio of media brands across cable and streaming, Stankey said.

News about HBO Max has been slowly ratcheting up since July when WarnerMedia revealed the service’s name and its initial content lineup. The service has scooped up exclusive streaming rights to the sitcom Friends, which will exit Netflix at year’s end, and the rights to other major franchises like The Big Bang Theory.

HBO Max has also secured the streaming rights to the animated comedy South Park, a major acquisition for the company, said Kevin Reilly, HBO Max’s chief content officer and president of TBS, TNT and truTV. All 23 seasons will be available on the service beginning in June 2020. The Comedy Central series currently streams exclusively on Hulu.

Also in adult animation: prior seasons of the Adult Swim comedy Rick and Morty, will be also available on the service at launch, said Michael Quigley, evp, content acquisitions and strategy.

In HBO Max’s first year, the company will roll out 50 originals, said Sarah Aubrey, HBO Max’s head of original programming. Upcoming HBO Max originals include comedies from Issa Rae and Mindy Kaling, as well as  two shows from the DC Universe executive produced by Greg Berlanti: anthology series Strange Adventures and a series inspired by Green Lantern. HBO Max has also tapped filmmaker Ridley Scott to create the serialized science fiction series Raised by Wolves.

HBO Max will eventually serve as a central hub for other offerings. An ad-supported version of HBO Max is planned to roll out sometime in 2021, Stankey said, and AT&T will eventually offer a live-television subscription through the platform.

Other details about the service—including how much it will cost, how it will look and how it will present WarnerMedia brands like HBO, TBS and Cartoon Network—haven’t yet been announced, but this story will be updated as more information about HBO Max is announced Tuesday night.

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