HBO Max Pre-Order Pricing Is Less Than Netflix’s Standard Plan

Here's why WarnerMedia wants to capture direct-billed customers for the super-size streaming service


WarnerMedia has started to rev up the HBO Max promo engine with less than four weeks before its launch.

The AT&T-owned media company just introduced a new promotional pricing offer — giving customers a 20% discount on the super-size HBO Max streaming package for 12 months. For $11.99 per month (versus the regular $14.99 rate), eligible subscribers get immediate access to HBO Now and then will be auto-upgraded to HBO Max on the May 27 launch date.

That means — for one year, anyway — consumers can get HBO Max (via hbomax.com) for less than Netflix’s standard HD plan, which costs $12.99 per month. Also note that HBO Max’s $3-off promo price is the same as Hulu’s ad-free VOD tier.

Of course, there are restrictions. The special HBO Max offer is available only to new subscribers and “returning eligible” HBO Now subscribers, through May 27 at 2:59 a.m. ET. Initially HBO Max is available only in the U.S.

WarnerMedia also says there are only “a limited number of subscriptions to this HBO Now/HBO Max promotional offer.” The company further notes in the fine print that “no free trials will be available during this offer period.”

Late this week, WarnerMedia began sending ex-HBO Now customers emails informing them of the new deal. “Say hello to HBO Max — the brand new streaming platform that bundles all of HBO together with even more blockbusters, addictive series and exclusive Max Originals,” the marketing pitch reads. “Come back and get all of HBO together with even more, for less. Preorder HBO Max for instant access on May 27 and start streaming HBO Now today.”

As it stands now, the HBO Max discounted price is available only if you pre-order directly through WarnerMedia. If you get HBO Max through another distributor, you’ll pay the full-freight $14.99 retail price (although AT&T has a range of promos across its own product lines).

There’s a key reason why WarnerMedia is making it more attractive for people to sign up for HBO Max direct billing out of the gate: Even with the 20% discount, WarnerMedia will likely generate more per-subscriber revenue than if someone pays for the service through partners, which each take a cut.

Terms of those distribution deals are private, but both Apple and Google levy a standard 30% app-store fee on transactions. So WarnerMedia would make more margin on a direct-billed subscriber even with 20% shaved off the top.

WarnerMedia has been racing to extend agreements with affiliates ahead of the go-live date, under which existing HBO subs will be rolled over to HBO Max for the same price. This week it announced pacts with Hulu, Google and Apple, adding to those it reached earlier with Charter’s Spectrum and YouTube TV.

HBO Max has the tagline “Where HBO meets so much more,” and WarnerMedia promises a bountiful bouquet of 10,000 hours of premium programming to stream right away. The SVOD service will include all the programming from HBO; a slate of new originals; third-party licensed content like full seasons of “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “South Park,” “Sesame Street,” and “Pretty Little Liars”; all of the films from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli; and movies from Warner Bros., New Line and DC like “Joker,” “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Matrix,” “Casablanca” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

In addition, HBO Max will carry content from other WarnerMedia brands including CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth and Looney Tunes.