The telco’s move comes two months after AT&T spun off WarnerMedia and sold it to Discovery, to form Warner Bros. Discovery. Previously, HBO Max had been available for no extra charge with the AT&T Unlimited Elite wireless plan — and, prior to the launch of HBO Max, the carrier had offered HBO for free on its priciest mobile plans going back to 2017.
“HBO Max is a great service, but we constantly experiment with the features we offer our customers to give them the best value,” an AT&T rep said in a statement to Variety.
AT&T customers who have received HBO Max for no additional charge in previous offers are not affected; they will still have access to the streaming service, as long as they keep their plan. The telco this week launched the AT&T Unlimited Premium plan (replacing Unlimited Elite), which includes 50 gigabytes of hotspot data but no longer includes HBO Max, as noted by Mobile Internet Resource Center. Unlimited Premium starts at $50 per month per line when you get four lines.
Meanwhile, AT&T’s Cricket Wireless brand still currently offers the ad-supported version of HBO Max (regularly $9.99/month) included with its $60 per month unlimited plan.
AT&T unloaded WarnerMedia to become a pure-play telecommunications provider, unwinding its ill-fated foray into the entertainment biz with the acquisitions of Time Warner and DirecTV.
WarnerMedia had been a drag on AT&T’s overall earnings. For Q1 2022 — prior to the close of the Warner Bros. Discovery deal — WarnerMedia’s operating income was $1.3 billion, down 33% year over year. That decline, AT&T said, was largely a result of “continued investments in HBO Max” as well as in CNN+, the subscription-streaming service that WBD almost immediately shuttered post-close, coming less than a month after its launch.
As of the end of March, HBO Max and HBO had 76.8 million total subscribers worldwide, including 48.6 million domestically. That was a 3 million quarterly net gain for HBO Max/HBO, which matched that in the year-earlier period.