AT&T’s upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, is still on track for a May 2020 launch, said president and CEO John Stankey, speaking today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, where he provided an update to shareholders. Though the HBO brand tends to be associated with adult fare, like “Game of Thrones,” Stankey positioned the new offering as more family-friendly by saying there would be content for children, tweens and parents alike.
HBO has tried in the past to market itself to families. In 2015, it announced a deal with Sesame Workshop to stream the next five seasons of the popular preschooler show “Sesame Street” on its network. It later rolled out a “Kids” section on its app to feature Sesame Workshop shows and other kid-friendly titles. And this past fall, HBO Max and Sesame Workshop expanded their partnership with a new deal that brings four more shows and five more seasons of “Sesame Street,” plus annual specials and its 50-year library to HBO’s new streaming service.
Despite these agreements, HBO isn’t a brand people think of when they want family entertainment. But in the wake of the successful launch of Disney+, the company knows there’s massive potential in catering not only to the adults paying the bills, but to the whole household.
“It’s going to be a content offer[ing] that will have something for everybody in the household. They’re going to look at it and say, I see myself there,” said Stankey, speaking at the event. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a child in the household, a tween in the household, a mother, a father. You’re going to see something in that offering that wants you to say, I resonate with that and that’s relevant.”
He also noted that a beta version of HBO Max has been in testing with a controlled group. The second beta version was just released with new features, including customer profiles and content downloads.
Today, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ let customers set up profiles for all the users in their household. But while HBO NOW added parental controls and a kids lock feature for mobile, it hasn’t allowed customers to personalize their experience with individual profiles and watchlists. HBO MAX will need this feature if it truly wants to cater to families with children.
The company believes it will have a solid user base for the new service when it launches in May, thanks to its existing customers. HBO NOW customers will be immediately upgraded to HBO MAX if they subscribe through hbonow.com, for example. Meanwhile, the 10 million AT&T customers who already subscribe to HBO by way of DirecTV, AT&T TV or U-Verse TV will get the service free.
In addition, Stankey said it will be distributed through AT&T channels, including AT&T wireless bundles, and via existing HBO partners, like MVPDs (cable or satellite providers). HBO Max also recently announced a deal with its first vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributor), YouTube TV. Similar deals are in the works, as well, Stankey hinted. But he didn’t offer names.
WarnerMedia already revealed most of these details, as well as the HBO Max pricing — $14.99/mo — and much of its content slate. The latter consists of 10,000 hours of content at launch, including the HBO library, Warner Bros. film library and 31 Max Originals series. The service will also be the new streaming home for the 90s classic “Friends,” as well as “The Big Bang Theory,” for which it paid over $1 billion.