HBO Max App Downloads Declined in September Despite Price Cut

hbomax_placeholder
CHEYNE GATELEY/VARIETY INTELLIGENCE PLATFORM

A September discount promotion for HBO Max didn’t help grow its reach on mobile devices, suggests new data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform from app analytics firm Apptopia. 

Across the App Store and Google Play in the U.S., the HBO Max app was cumulatively downloaded roughly 1.5 million times during the promotional period of September 4-25, compared with 1.7 million times the app was downloaded during August 4-25, according to Apptopia. 

Daily downloads of the HBO Max app have also trended downward from roughly 80,000 on August 1 to about 63,600 on September 26, the day after the promotion ended.

This suggests that HBO Max’s September price-cut promo might not have signed up as many users as WarnerMedia had hoped (a WarnerMedia rep declined comment). Parent company AT&T will surely look to provide Wall Street the rosiest assessment possible of the app’s performance amid the streaming wars and expectations that WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is doing his utmost to get HBO Max on solid footing after making significant cuts to his division in recent months. 

The focus on downloads for assessing the effectiveness of HBO Max’s recent promo is helpful because the metric is the closest proxy for HBO Max sign-ups that Apptopia could provide. The firm counts only new unique users in its download metric: If someone downloaded the HBO Max app, uninstalled it and then reinstalled it, they would be only counted once, for example.

But keep in mind the caveats to this data. A portion of consumers could have signed up for the promotion through HBOMax.com, rather than the app, and watched the SVOD on their computer or connected TV device.

What’s more, Apptopia’s total app downloads figure for HBO Max during Sep. 4-25 could have been lower than what it is now had WarnerMedia not run its promotion at all.

Meanwhile, there are signals that engagement has been picking up for HBO Max in other ways. Apptopia’s figures suggest daily usage of the app has increased from August until late September. 

The discrepancy between the declining downloads figures and increasing daily user figure could be explained by existing subscribers engaged in repeat usage throughout the month of September while mobile sign-ups decelerated. HBO Max sci-fi original “Raised by Wolves,” executive produced by Ridley Scott, debuted on Sept. 3 and garnered decent critical/viewer acclaim. That could have driven some users to pick up the app again.

Another sign that things are not all doom and gloom for HBO Max is that in-app purchase (IAP) revenue trended upward from August to September 26. 

On average, the HBO Max app generated about $249,000 per day in the September promotion, higher than the comparable August time frame (Aug. 4-25), Apptopia’s figures show. 

This metric captures revenue received when users subscribe to HBO Max. The figure doesn’t include subscriptions users paid for elsewhere (i.e., HBOMax.com).

The fact that IAP revenue increased while downloads decreased in the promotion could be in part explained by users who initially downloaded the HBO Max app when it first launched in late May but never bothered to subscribe and just kept it on their phones. 

During the promotional timeframe, some of these users may have signed up for the cheaper HBO Max subscription, therefore generating IAP revenue and even more DAUs for HBO Max by Apptopia’s count but not registering more unique downloads.

Because of that, WarnerMedia still could chalk up its September promotion as a relative success because it badly needs anything at the moment to boost its reportable reach come its next earnings call. 

During AT&T’s Q2 earnings call in July, WarnerMedia reported that HBO Max had 4.1 million total activations. But it also reported that HBO Max and HBO together had 36.3 million U.S. subs at the end of June and 23.6 million of that were eligible for HBO Max as a result of their HBO subscriptions.

AT&T reported its HBO Max subscriber numbers in these several different ways to make clear that it still can draw from its massive base of linear HBO subs to increase HBO Max’s reach, although it has been criticized for doing such.