Did HBO Max Just Become the Best Bargain in Streaming?

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That $15 monthly price tag now gets you 18 big-screen films over the next year, including blockbusters like “Dune”

Dune Timothee Chalamet
Warner Bros./HBO Max

HBO Max, the most expensive streaming service, may have just become the best value in entertainment thanks to Warner Bros.’ industry-shattering move on Thursday to release its entire 2021 slate of films simultaneously in theaters and on the streamer. The move, which includes big-budget tentpoles like “Godzilla v. Kong,” “Dune,” “Matrix 4” and the DC Comics film “The Suicide Squad,” sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Along with the upcoming Christmas Day release of “Wonder Woman 1984,” it will give HBO Max subscribers access to a whopping 18 theatrical films without having to pay anything more than the $15 monthly price. Depending on where you live, that $15 is the cost of a single movie ticket (its closer to $18 in cities like Los Angeles and New York). While the release dates for all these movies could change from their planned 2021 theatrical debuts, it figures that at least one new major film will be available for HBO Max subscribers each month. For a family film like LeBron James’ “Space Jam” sequel, that would save parents anywhere between $30 and $40, and that’s not even taking into account the cost of popcorn and candy. Each film will be available on HBO Max for one month, before reverting to the traditional 90-day window between theatrical release and video on demand. That also gives consumers a sense of urgency and creates and “event”-like feel for watching films in their living rooms, since most of their friends will probably watch around the same time. “We see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans, which is to provide choice,” WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a blog post Thursday. The move also provides a big boost to the company’s fledgling streaming service, which launched in late May and reported a combined 38 million U.S. subscribers between Max and regular HBO at the end of September. That just barely surpassed Warner parent AT&T internal expectations of 37 million. But we bet if you tied up WarnerMedia executives with the Lasso of Truth, they’d probably admit to being underwhelmed with the first few months of HBO Max. HBO Max technically has 28.7 million subscribers, though the heavy majority of those, 25.1 million, are customers who already pay for HBO and get Max for free as part of their subscription. Of those, around 12.7 million have actually signed up (in what AT&T calls “activations”) for Max specifically. An additional 3.6 million have bought HBO Max on its own through WarnerMedia. To put that in context: Disney+ shot past 28 million subscribers within its first three months and now has more than 70 million paying consumers globally. WarnerMedia has around 57 million subscribers between HBO and HBO Max around the world.


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