With the May 27th launch of HBO Max, the streaming wars have escalated all over again as AT&T challenges a field already crowded with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney and others. To assess the prospects of HBO Max, Variety Intelligence Platform chief media analyst Andrew Wallenstein has an in-depth discussion with Variety’s New York-based digital editor, Todd Spangler, who has been covering this highly anticipated streaming service since its inception.
Wallenstein and Spangler explore a wide range of issues they deem crucial to HBO Max’s success, including the timing of launching amid a pandemic that has left so many Americans economically challenged; a price tag higher than the rest of its competitors; the divisive marketing campaign that seems to have succeeded in sparking awareness-driving conversation; the qualities of the original and licensed programming; and the strength of the HBO Max managerial team.
One overlooked factor they discuss in detail is the ability of AT&T to promote the product to an installed base of hundreds of millions of wireless phone, internet and pay-TV customers. They draw a comparison to Apple’s own similar ability to reach its massive customer footprint, though that may not have worked enough magic yet for Apple TV+.
The stakes are high for AT&T, according to Wallenstein. “The stakes could not be any bigger for AT&T,” he said. “If HBO Max failed, this phone company’s entire $85 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia will get called into question. HBO Max has to succeed or the whole rationale of bringing together content and telecom gets called into question.”