WarnerMedia to launch HBO Max on 27 May but without ‘Friends’ reunion

AT&T-owned WarnerMedia is to launch its new streaming service HBO Max in the US on 27 May, albeit without the much-talked about Friends unscripted reunion show, which has been hit by the production halt caused by Covid-19.

The platform was unveiled in October complete with its top tier pricing, and will offer more than 10,000 hours of content from across Warner’s hefty content library from the likes of Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth and Looney Tunes.

The slate includes Anna Kendrick-starring scripted comedy Love Life, feature documentary On The Record, underground ballroom dance competition series Legendary, unscripted series Craftopia Sesame Workshop’s The Not Too Late Show With Elmo.

Numerous originals are also set to debut later this year, including shows such as The Flight Attendant, starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco, three-part docuseries Expecting Amy and sci-fi series Raised By Wolves. Last week, the streamer ordered three new one-hour dramas from JJ Abrams and Katie McGrath’s Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television Group.

Dialling up subscription strategy

As previously announced, customers who subscribe to HBO through AT&T will be offered HBO Max at no extra charge while customers on select AT&T wireless, video and internet plans will have HBO Max included. Other AT&T customers will be able to access a one month free trial and bundling offers for the streamer, which will cost $14.99 per month.

Users of HBO’s existing HBO Now service will also receive a free upgrade, but only if they are billed directly through HBO rather than through a third party such as Amazon Prime or Apple.

All of this is in an attempt to maximise HBO Max’s chances of fast success in the domestic US market, at a time where Netflix is making record gains and Disney is going from strength to strength with Disney+.

HBO Max content plan (click to enlarge)

Bob Greenblatt, CEO of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer, said: “Even in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, the all-star teams behind every aspect of HBO Max will deliver a platform and a robust slate of content that is varied, of the highest quality, and second to none.

“I’m knocked out by the breadth and depth of our new offering, from the Max originals, our Warner Bros library and acquisition titles from around the world, and of course the entirety of HBO.”

He added that WarnerMedia parent AT&T would be a “key distribution partner” and said he expected HBO Max “to achieve an impressive level of scale and reach at launch. As the product has taken shape over the last year, the partnership and dedication we have received from all across the AT&T organisation has been invaluable.”

“Consumers will quickly see that HBO Max is set apart by a foundation of loved brands built over decades but stitched together with a distinctive voice and product experience,” added Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max, president of TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Our team has meticulously selected a world class library catalogue and collaborated with top creators across all genres to offer a monthly cadence of original series and movies that we will program and promote for cultural impact.”

“It is thrilling to be approaching the launch of HBO Max so we can finally share the first wave of content our teams have been developing in partnership with a group of unparalleled creators,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at the streamer. “The originals slate available at launch represents a diverse range of unique voices emblematic of the quality and scope of our programming still to come.”

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