Get ready to make “Friends” with HBO Max: That’s the name of WarnerMedia’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service, set to launch in the spring of 2020 with some 10,000 hours of content, including all episodes of ’90s hit “Friends.”
However, WarnerMedia still hasn’t announced pricing for the service, which will compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus, among others.
Under a new deal with Warner Bros. Television, HBO Max will have exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of “Friends” — which will roll off Netflix in 2020. “We’re sorry to see ‘Friends’ go to Warner’s steaming service at the beginning of 2020 (in the US),” Netflix tweeted after WarnerMedia’s announcement. “Thanks for the memories, gang.”
Netflix had reupped its deal with Warner Bros. TV for exclusive streaming rights to “Friends” through the end of 2019, but AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently said that WarnerMedia would be reclaiming popular titles that were licensed to others for its own subscription VOD service.
WarnerMedia also announced new exclusive movie production deals for HBO Max with Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon. Under the pacts, Berlanti will produce an initial four movies in the young-adult genre, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films for the service.
Berlanti, the prolific producer behind such shows as “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Riverdale” and “Blindspot,” said in a statement about the HBO Max pact, “What I’ve always loved about creating shows that connect with a young audience is that these fans grow up with the programs and will remember them for the rest of their lives. Now I get to do even more of that for HBO Max, where viewers will be able to discover shows on their own time, in their own way.”
In addition, HBO Max will include all episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” starring Will Smith and “Pretty Little Liars,” the ABC Family/Freeform hit — which also will be leaving Netflix.
Moreover, HBO Max will be the exclusive streaming home new Warner Bros.-produced dramas for The CW starting with the fall 2019 season, including the DC Entertainment series “Batwoman,” and “Katy Keene” (a spinoff of “Riverdale”). CW shows going forward will be available on HBO Max beginning 30 days prior to the TV premiere of the next seasons of those shows. CW shows currently licensed to Netflix, which include “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Arrow,” will remain on Netflix for the next few years.
Overall, HBO Max will combine content from HBO with a slate of originals and programming from Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, and Looney Tunes. In its announcement, WarnerMedia highlighted some of the content coming to HBO Max, including previously announced originals.
“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform,” Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer, said in a statement.
It’s still not fully clear how HBO, as a standalone service, will be differentiated from HBO Max. WarnerMedia has been considering a price point of $16-$17 per month for the new SVOD product and would likely bundle in HBO and Cinemax, the Wall Street Journal reported a month ago.
HBO Max programming will continue to be overseen by Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO. According to WarnerMedia, HBO’s investment in original programming has increased 50% over “normal spending” leading up to the launch of HBO Max in 2020.
Kevin Reilly, president of the WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks that include TNT, TBS, and truTV, also serves as chief content officer of HBO Max overseeing all new originals and library content. Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, now oversees the development of HBO Max with Andy Forssell, also from Otter Media and formerly CEO of Hulu, as the general manager. In May, Brad Bentley exited WarnerMedia Entertainment group as EVP and GM of direct-to-consumer development after six months in the role.