WarnerMedia will roll out HBO Max into Europe and Latin America during the second half of next year, with the recently launched streaming service also set to become home to a swathe of new movies from the US studio in America.
HBO Max global chief, Andy Forssell, said that by the end of next year “both of those regions will be very active,” with the company planning to upgrade existing subscribers of HBO direct-to-consumer services to the new streamer.
WarnerMedia’s plan to roll out in Latin America had already been revealed but details of the launch into Europe – specifically Central & Eastern Europe and the Nordics – had been kept under wraps.
Speed & expansion
Forssell, who was speaking at the online Web Summit on Thursday, added that the ultimate aim was to get the streamer into 190 countries, adding that “it’s just a matter of how fast we can do that.”
The HBO Max exec added that the new streamer would roughly double the amount of content available to subscribers in the counties, while Casey Bloys, chief content officer of HBO and the streamer, said that production was now back up to the same levels as they were in March.
WarnerMedia has acquired an array of programming to deal with the production hiatus, including international shows such as BBC drama The Trial Of Christine Keeler, Spanish-language series La Jauria, which is is produced by Fremantle and Fabula, and a slew of others including Adult Material, Possessions and kids programming from Blue Ant International.
Bloys added that both the content offer and the user experience set his streamer apart from others such as Netflix.
“It’s not just the shows. It’s how they’re presented. To me it feels like there’s an actual human offering up the shows, which is fun and pleasing and has personality.”
Forssell added: “We absolutely present recommendations based on data, but we also have collections that a human put together. So you’ll see us mixing human curation and data quite a bit, and that will accelerate over the next few months. But we think there’s a balance that’s a little bit off with many of the other services that are pure utility.”
WarnerMedia also said it would launch all of its 2021 Warner Bros cinematic releases simultaneously on HBO Max, a move that is seen as an aggressive push for the streamer.
The company said that the strategy would be an experiment for one year, with the films having a one month window on HBO Max before leaving the platform for a period of time.
WarnerMedia previously announced this tactic for Wonder Woman 1984, which will release on the SVOD on 25 December for a month. At the time, the company said that it was mulling its cinematic strategy, but few predicted that Warner would go so far as to release each of its films on HBO Max – a drastic measure that not even Disney is taking.
The current 2021 Warner Bros. film slate includes: The Little Things, Judas And The Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho, and Matrix 4.
As announced this week with Wonder Woman 1984, all of these films will be available on the streamer in 4K UHD and HDR.
Explaining the move, Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff said: “We’re living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the US will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”
Unlike Disney, which almost entirely removed Mulan from cinemas while making Artemis Fowl, Hamilton and Soul streaming exclusives, Warner is still looking to keep US cinemas happy, with the films being released simultaneously in theatres.
Warner will hope that following this new aggressive strategy will attract new users to the platform, while also justifying the top-tier $14.99 per month pricing to its existing subscribers.
The company also intends on launching an ad-supported HBO Max tier in 2021, though it remains unclear whether there will be any distinction in terms of content offerings.
Going international with DC productions
Bloys also revealed that HBO Max is looking to original shows based upon DC Comics outside of the US for the first time.
Speaking at the Web Summit, he indicated that the company is exploring ways to build upon its existing titles, including HBO Max’s upcoming Peacemaker series, which is a spin-off of the upcoming feature The Suicide Squad, as well as the Gotham City police department-focused spin-off of the in-production The Batman film.
HBO Max’s other DC Universe originals include Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn, Titans and Swamp Thing.
“We’re also going to work to see DC content in other countries outside of the U.S,” said Bloys at the conference.
“One of the big themes of bringing HBO Max together was breaking down the silos between HBO, Warner Bros and TBS and TNT. I’d say one other silo was international.”