The Warner Bros. Discovery streamer needs to proceed with caution in future cuts to its catalog or find another huge hit to increase demand
HBO Max recently announced another round of show cancellations and removals from its platform, echoing the first wave of cuts that caught fans off guard in August. At that time, a hugely successful “House of the Dragon” premiere helped make up for the loss of shows that were removed from HBO Max that month. Now that demand for that massive hit has died down, we are beginning to see the effects of these decisions impact the top level demand for HBO Max’s catalog.
The total demand for HBO Max’s catalog of shows was relatively flat from July through October. The first season of “House of the Dragon” aired episodes weekly from Aug. 21 to Oct. 23 and helped to offset any drop in demand from the August cuts. However in November, total demand for shows on HBO Max was down nearly 4% from what it had been in July, according to Parrot Analytics‘ data, which takes into account consumer research, streaming, downloads and social media, among other engagement.
When we looked at the first round of cuts announced in August, we measured that the total demand for series being cut amounted to 2.1% of demand for all series on HBO Max at the time. To put that in perspective, that added up to around the same amount of attention audiences gave to “Game of Thrones” that month.
The latest round of cuts announced this month is on a similar scale to last time. Looking at the total demand in November for all the impacted shows, they comprised 2.7% of the total demand for all shows on HBO Max that month. Without another hit on the scale of “House of the Dragon” to offset these cuts, HBO Max subscribers will likely feel this round of casualties more acutely.
While the aggregate impact of the recent show cuts may be on a similar scale to last time, the biggest shows impacted this time drove more demand than the biggest casualties of the last round. “Infinity Train,” for example, was the most in-demand show cut last time and had 5.9 times demand the month before being axed. “Infinity Train” may have an extremely devoted fan base, but it doesn’t come close to reaching the same audience as “Westworld,” the most in-demand show cut this time, which had 23 times the average series demand in November. In fact, five of the shows being taken down from HBO Max this time had higher demand than “Infinity Train” at the time of its removal. Along with “Westworld,” “Raised by Wolves” and “The Nevers” are among the top 3% of shows by demand.
While these moves by HBO Max aren’t good news for current or potential subscribers to the platform, the good news for HBO Max is that the package of content it offers consumers still looks competitively priced relative to the competition. In the third quarter this year, total demand for all shows and movies on the platform was about equal to Hulu. The ad-free tiers of both platforms are priced at $14.99/month, which looks like a good price for the amount of in-demand content they provide subscribers.
From this position, HBO Max has room to remove some content and stay competitive. However, with more cuts planned for January and potentially beyond, the platform should proceed with caution to avoid significantly damaging its value to subscribers and triggering elevated subscriber churn (the rate in which customers join and end their subscriptions). Or alternatively, keep up the pace of cuts and find another “House of the Dragon” to smooth things over.
Parrot Analytics is the industry leader in global audience demand measurement. The company measures global supply and demand for entertainment, capturing over 2 billion audiences expressing demand for content and talent in over 100 languages, across all platforms, in 200+ countries. Parrot Analytics' partners use this knowledge to help better understand global supply and demand across all platforms to value content and talent, drive better production, distribution, acquisition and marketing decisions, as well as increase D2C growth and retention. For more information, see www.parrotanalytics.com.