WarnerMedia’s streamer HBO Max will not be launched in the UK, Germany or Italy until existing output deals with European pay giant Sky run out in 2025, the company has confirmed.
The US media giant recently firmed up plans to launch its new SVOD into 60 countries outside of the US this year, including 21 countries in Europe, where it will arrive during the second half of 2021.
This expansion, however, will not include the key markets of the UK, Germany or Italy, where Sky has an exclusive content distribution agreement with WarnerMedia for HBO content.
That rich output deal, struck in October 2019, was an extension of a long-running agreement between Sky and HBO, which had previously handed the Comcast-owned pay TV operator rights to shows such as Game Of Thrones, Watchmen and True Detective across Sky’s territories, which also include Ireland.
The exclusive broadcast and VOD pact also covered some key Warner Bros. movies, such as the recently released four-hour Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and also included a co-production agreement between Sky and HBO Max, as revealed by TBI.
The deal suggested – as TBI reported at the time – that WarnerMedia was not planning to offer its SVOD in countries where Sky operates.
That has now been confirmed in an interview with the FT, in which WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar acknowledged the “tremendous opportunity” for HBO Max in “the UK, Germany and other markets”.
He added that he had been “spending a lot of time thinking about what happens” when the Sky deal expires in 2025, with WarnerMedia adding that HBO Max would not be launched in Sky territories “during the term” of its existing partnership.
The FT also reported that the US firm had “explored options” to “recast its relationship” with the European operator, but that negotiations had not taken place.
Kilar’s ‘biggest regrets’
Kilar, who was the founder of Hulu, also said that he was keen not to repeat the now Disney-owned streamer’s mistake of not rolling out internationally, referring to its US-only focus as one of his “biggest regrets”.
He said that a similar reluctance to expand internationally – particularly in Europe – had previously held back the HBO brand.
While HBO content has been licenced out to broadcasters internationally, it only operates as a standalone entity in a small number of territories, including the Nordics and Spain.
Kilar added: “Why is HBO Max not in 190 countries today? Because of that history.”
By contrast, HBO Max – which first launched in the US in May 2020 – will rapidly expand this year, with Kilar saying that “as a leader, I need to make sure we set a record for how fast we go global.”