Winter is coming … to HBO.
With Game of Thrones over, a fiercer battle awaits as the premium cable channel gets ready to enter the streaming wars. HBO Max, at $14.99 a month, will mine the entire content library of Time Warner … err, AT&T’s rebranded WarnerMedia, in an effort to compete with existing services like Netlix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and the just-launched Disney +. HBO has a more daunting challenge, though.
With the field already crowded, and being so late to the game (it launches next year), it’s going to have to consolidate existing services — HBO Now and HBO Go — into one without hurting its core cable business, which has lost its luster after years of robust growth. Soprano’s, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under brought HBO to the stratosphere in the early aughts but it hasn’t had a culture-defining series like those in years, and its library of shows, documentaries and theatrical releases is thin in comparison. Which makes the logic of consolidating the entire WarnerMedia library into a bigger service sound.
Like HBO Now, HBO Max will be a stand-along service (HBO Go required a cable subscription) you can stream from you TV, iPad, phone and whatever new gadgets await. And it will be stocked with Warner Bros.’s finest: Friends, Batman, Harry Potter, even Gossip Girl: the entire hit parade will be available, as well as original programming and licensed favorites. Subscribers to both HBO Now and HBO Go will also be automatically be enrolled in HBO Max.
Whether that’s enough to compete is the question, and so is the price tag. It’s considerably more than its competitors (Netflix is $8.99; Hulu is $5.99; Amazon is $8.99; Apple TV is $4.99 and Disney is $6.99). The real test will be if the content library is strong enough to survive the streaming wars.