HBO Max to stream free episodes inside Snapchat for co-watching with friends

In a bid to boost sign-ups to its streaming service, HBO Max is partnering with Snap to bring free episodes from its original programing to Snapchat users in the U.S. The episodes will stream via a Snap Mini — the company’s bite-sized third-party apps that live within Snapchat. The experience will offer users a way to watch top titles, including both new releases like the rebooted “Gossip Girl” as well as fan favorites like “Game of Thrones,” among others, while chatting with friends.

To use the feature, Snapchat users will launch the HBO Max Mini experience through the rocket icon that appears within Chat or through Search. Viewers are then required to enter their birthdate to access a curated collection of age-appropriate episodes.

But what makes the experience more interesting than just being another way to stream TV on your phone are the interactive elements the Snap Mini experience provides. Users can invite up to 63 other Snapchat friends to co-watch the shows with them by sending an in-chat message with a link to join the Snap Mini or by sending a clickable sticker link using Snapchat’s camera. When others join the Mini, their playback will sync up with their friends’ viewing, and they’ll be able to chat as they watch and share Bitmoji reactions with one another. (Separately, Snapchat just announced an upgraded Bitmoji experience involving 3D Bitmoji, but this is focused on users’ profiles.)

Co-watching experiences had become popular last year during the pandemic, as family and friends remained apart under COVID lockdown measures. Since users couldn’t be together in-person, they connected online to watch TV and movies with their loved ones, via third-party extensions like Netflix Party and other services. Some streamers, including Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, even built co-watching tools directly into their platforms. HBO Max, meanwhile, worked with browser extension maker Scener to make co-watching possible.

With its Snap Mini, HBO Max is now offering another way for friends to socialize online around favorite shows, where it’s not just about chatting inside the streamers’ own app, but instead about using a co-watching experience to drive sign-ups for the paid subscription.

According to HBO Max’s owner, WarnerMedia, the plan will be to use the Snap Mini to entice users to subscribe by presenting the option to go to HBO Max after the episode wraps so they can continue watching the series. (This will only be shown to users 18 and up, the company says).

In addition, the Snap Mini experience allows users to sample some of HBO Max’s content before committing to becoming a paid subscriber, as an alternative to a free trial where users tend to have to enter their payment card information.

The available titles will be refreshed on an ongoing basis. But for now, the first episode from a number of HBO Max shows will be offered, including “Craftopia,” “Euphoria,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Game of Thrones,” “Genera+ion,” “Gossip Girl” (2021), “Looney Tunes,” “Love Life,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Selena + Chef,” “Titans,” “Warrior” and “World of Calm.” The lineup will also include Episode 1 of the second season of “Betty.”

“People love to come together to watch their favorite HBO Max shows and talk about what’s unfolding,” said HBO Max EVP, DTC Global Product Management, Sarah Lyons. “Our partnership with Snapchat is another step towards fulfilling that desire for human connection and providing our fans with co-viewing opportunities, while deepening their emotional relationship with the brand. We believe humans value recommendations that come from other humans, so having the opportunity for friends to suggest, and then subsequently watch content together paves the way for more meaningful discovery,” she added.