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HBO Max Ends Free Trial Offer Ahead of ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ Warner Bros. 2021 Film Slate Premieres

WarnerMedia launches 22% discount on streaming service for six-month prepaid price

Wonder Woman 1984
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

WarnerMedia has terminated its seven-day free trial offer for HBO Max — a move coming three weeks before the streaming service is set to premiere “Wonder Woman 1984” day-and-date with theatrical release.

In addition to the Dec. 25 debut of “Wonder Woman 1984,” starring Gal Gadot in the title role, on HBO Max and in theaters, Warner Bros. just announced that its entire 2021 film slate will be released simultaneously on HBO Max and theatrically.

WarnerMedia had offered the free trial period since HBO Max launched in May 2020. But it killed that off so it can boost its base of paying subscribers by leveraging the “WW84″ tentpole event and next year’s day-and-date film releases from Warner Bros. Those are expected to include “The Matrix 4,” Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” remake, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s adaptation of “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Many Saints of Newark” (a prequel to HBO’s “Sopranos”).

At the same time, WarnerMedia has introduced a new special HBO Max deal: It’s offering a 22% discount to new subscribers who prepay for six months at $69.99 (about $11.66 per month, versus the regular $14.99 monthly price). The six-month special price is available from Dec. 3, 2020, through Jan. 15, 2021, available to new and returning HBO Max subscribers.

“We frequently update and iterate our offers to provide flexible ways for potential subscribers to access all that HBO Max has to offer,” a WarnerMedia rep said in a statement.

In June, Disney Plus similarly killed off its seven-day free trial promo just ahead of the July 3 premiere of the movie of musical “Hamilton” on the streamer. And in the U.S., Netflix this fall ended its longstanding 30-day free trial period for new subscribers as it tries out different promotional strategies, including making the service free in a market over one weekend.

For now, HBO Max is still unavailable on the Roku platform, which had about 46 million active accounts at the end of September. Industry sources speculate that WarnerMedia’s move to release “Wonder Woman 1984” and Warner Bros.’ 2021 titles day-and-date on HBO Max are part of trying to gain leverage in deal discussions with Roku.

Last month, WarnerMedia clinched a deal with Amazon to bring HBO Max to Fire TV and Fire tablet customers; it’s possible that the “Wonder Woman 1984” decision played a part in that. In a concession, Amazon agreed to discontinue offering the legacy HBO service through Prime Video Channels as of next year, as first reported by CNBC. Apple similarly pulled HBO from its channel store when it signed on to distribute HBO Max.

Roku currently offers the legacy HBO service through the Roku Channel; like Amazon, Roku has wanted to retain the ability to sell HBO as a “channel” to maintain direct customer relationships instead of distributing the HBO Max app. In the absence of a deal, Roku users on recent-model 4K devices can now use Apple AirPlay 2 to cast from the HBO Max app to their Roku players.

As of the end of the third quarter, WarnerMedia said 28.7 million customers were eligible to get HBO Max. The Amazon deal should immediately boost that number to at least 33 million, given that Amazon has said it had nearly 5 million HBO subscribers through Prime Video Channels.