HBO Max Europe Launch: Service Debuts Aggressive Half Price Offer in Nordics, Spain

‘Kamikaze’ Credit: Asmund Sollihogda

It’s a once in a lifetime offer, literally. From today through to Nov. 30, HBO Max will offer new subscribers in parts of Europe the chance to sign up for the lifetime of their subscription at half the monthly retail price, for as long as they don’t unsubscribe.

The offer is being made as HBO Max launches on Oct. 26 in its first six European territories: Spain and Andorra and the four Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

It’s a highly aggressive offer, undercutting Netflix and Disney Plus for new subscribers. In Spain and Finland, for example, where the monthly subscription fee is tabbed at €8.99 ($10.40), new subscribers now have the chance to sign up for HBO Max for just €4.49 ($5.20) a month.

That compares to €7.99 ($9.30) a month for a basic one-screen Netflix subscription in Spain and €7.50 ($8.70) per month for customers paying an annual Disney Plus subscription, with up to 10 devices.

Once a customer quits HBO Max, they will have normal retail prices if they return.

The offer, which also applies to the Nordics, comes fast on the heels of pricing reductions already announced by HBO Max on Oct. 5 for the Nordics, Spain and Andorra. These saw a new yearly subscription offer of 12-month access for the price of eight, bringing the monthly cost down to approximately €5.99 ($6.95) in Spain and Finland. In addition, the current monthly subscription price is being reduced for customers in the Nordics. In Sweden, for example, the price will drop from 109 kronas ($12.70) to 89 kronas ($10.30) a month.

“HBO Max is now live in six European territories, with 21 more to come in 2022,” said Christina Sulebakk, general manager for HBO Max EMEA.

She added: “As well as bringing together the very best entertainment, movies, kids programming and original series on one streaming platform available on every screen, we are offering customers outstanding value with a once in a lifetime promotion in addition to a new annual subscription, making it easy for customers to enjoy everything they love.”

The half-price offer was already introduced when HBO Max launched in 39 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on June 29.

Such aggressive pricing served to “pull a lot of demand forward and give the service a lot of momentum. And it helps keep subscribers, too,” Priya Dogra, president of WarnerMedia Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia, told Variety, adding that the offer had “very high volume.”

“We’re already offering a very attractive price,” said Sulebakk. “We believe we’ll get a lot of new customers who might have price as an indicator to try the service. Also, we don’t have a free trial so this is an opportunity to enjoy the service and see its richness,” she added.

Johannes Larcher, head of HBO Max International, added: “With the launch in Europe today, HBO Max is now available in 46 territories globally. This is an important milestone as we continue to deliver on our ambition to roll out HBO Max around the world with more territories to come in Europe and Asia next year.”

The Nordics and Spain will share the same foundational programming from the U.S. — two of whose shows, “The Suicide Squad” spin-off “Peacemaker” and sci-fi miniseries “Station Eleven” — were teased for the Spanish press at a presentation of HBO Max in Madrid in Monday.

The HBO Max lineup will also include Nordic local originals such as “Kamikaze” (pictured), HBO Max’s first Danish original, the globetrotting story of a rich 18-year-old fashion influencer’s journey of rediscovery after her whole family dies in an air crash, which won lead Marie Reuther the best actress prize at Series Mania. When it bows on Nov. 14 on HBO Max, it will become the first Max Original commissioned and produced in Europe that will stream day and date globally on the service.

Further upcoming Nordic originals include Norwegian sci-fi crime drama “Beforeigners” season 2 and Swedish sex comedy “Lust,” with “The Bridge” star Sofia Helin, about middle-aged women keeping their libidos alive in a sexually frustrating world.

Presented on Monday in Madrid, HBO Max’s new Spanish originals takes in the newly announced animated series “Poor Devil,” 30-something comedy “Todo lo otro,” political satire “Venga Juan,” HBO Max’s biggest-budget Spanish play “Garcia,” a noirish action thriller, and “Sin novedad,” a Spanish version of Australian crime comedy format “No Activity.”

Local production turns in general on “finding a talent that you really want to work with and figuring out the project,” Dogra noted.

But it’s also “quite territory specific,” she added. One question is “whether an international market is ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or is it a market like Spain where you need to produce more volume because local programming appeals so much.”

Another concern is economics. “The size of a territory will determine how much investment we can make in local-language programming, because inherently it needs to be local,” Dogra said. At some 470 million speakers, Spanish accounts for the second largest linguistic market in the world, after Mandarin Chinese.

Of HBO originals to date in Spain, both Alex de la Iglesia’s village-set horror romp “30 Coins” and “Patria” have travelled, said Sulebakk.

“Patria” turns on the pained attempt at reconciliation between two women, intimate friends since childhood, torn apart after the assassination by ETA of one friend’s husband, as the other’s son is tortured and then imprisoned for being a member of the terrorist org.

Said Sulebakk: “If you look at ‘Patria,’ it’s a very Spanish show and a high-level, more costly production. It has to resonate in Spain. But it did travel because of such great storytelling and such a relevant topic.”