WarnerMedia's Confidence In HBO Max Subscriber Goal Might Be Slipping


Back when HBO Max was simply referred to as 'WarnerMedia's new streaming service' the company had suggested its goal was to get to seventy million subscribers. At the time, that goal was based on comments attributed to WarnerMedia's CEO, John Stankey.

Now, in a new report from The Information which credits "people familiar with the situation" for the details, the suggestion is WarnerMedia's real goal for HBO Max is fifty million subs.

The report states this is the goal WarnerMedia wants to achieve within the next five years and while this could simply be interpreted as a stepping-stone on route to the seventy million marker, it is interesting to note the seventy million was seemingly a comment made publicly by the company, while the fifty million is one that's reportedly being spoken behind the scenes. In other words, it may be the case that there's a discrepancy between how the company is looking to public project what it expects HBO Max to achieve in the early days and what it realistically expects.


In either case, fifty million is a significant number, although the report does also point to the existing HBO service as the main driving force in achieving that number. HBO is understood to currently have around thirty-five million subscribers, and if the majority of them migrated over to the new service as expected, than it could be assumed the company's expectation for new subscribers is fairly limited.

To put this number into perspective, the industry expectation is Disney+ will attract as much as seventy million subscribers by 2024 – the same time-frame set out for HBO Max. Considering Disney+ has yet to launch this would mean the service goes from zero subscribers to seventy million in the same time HBO Max (bolstered by the existing HBO subscriber base) reaches either the public goal of seventy million or the seemingly private goal of fifty million.

Of course, Disney+ has one clear advantage and that's the price as Disney has already confirmed subscribers to its "Plus" service will only have to pay $6.99 per month. In contrast, HBO Max is expected to launch at a higher price point than HBO's current $14.99 per month price.


Reports had previously suggested the price will be set around $16-17 per month and this latest report looks to reconfirm that with "people familiar with the situation" stating the price will be "around $16" per month.

HBO Max won't only be competing with Disney on attracting new subscribers in general, but also on the same subscribers. In fact, from WarnerMedia's perspective, the Disney+ market is likely to be one of the major growth directions the service is banking on.

For example, the report is primarily focused on highlighting the internal debates that were being had within WarnerMedia over the use of the "HBO Max" branding. The suggestion being many were unhappy with the close association of the new service with the "HBO" name as it has not been one that traditionally resonated well with families. Yet one of the major differences between HBO and the Max version will be the additional content specifically aimed at families, such as content sourced from Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. As far as many, including WarnerMedia is concerned, attracting those same family subscribers will be central to the subscriber growth of HBO Max beyond the core HBO demographic.


According to the report, in spite of those reservations, WarnerMedia settled on the HBO name as it was considered the strongest brand name associated with WarnerMedia's catalog. Although there was also the suggestion made that if HBO Max is ever able to get out from under HBO's shadow then it might drop the "HBO" name altogether.

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Freelance Contributor

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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