HBO Max Usage Surged This Quarter

Posted on December 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Disney+, Music + Videos with 18 Comments

AT&T CEO John Stankey. Credit: Getty Images

AT&T announced today that its HBO Max streaming service saw explosive usage and engagement gains in the most recent quarter.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said during a keynote appearance at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference that HBO Max’s user base jumped from 8.6 million at the close of the third quarter to 12.6 million as of early December. And that total hours of engagement have risen by 36 percent in the past 30 days.

Those gains are almost certainly going to continue: The service previously revealed that it would exclusively stream Wonder Woman 1984 starting on Christmas Day, December 25, alongside a subdued theatrical release. And Warner Bros., the studio behind that movie, will bring all of its 2021 releases to HBO Max day and date with their theatrical releases in 2021.

That strategy, while controversial in the movie industry, is certainly the right move for consumers hunkered at home during a pandemic and is arguably the right move for the studios as well. “Snowplowing all theatrical content into late-2021 and early-2022 probably isn’t going to help anybody,” Starkey noted.

He added that HBO Max was thus well on its way to its stated goal of having 50 million subscribers in the U.S. and 75 million to 90 million globally by 2025. “We’re actually ahead of plan,” he said.

It’s worth pointing out that Disney+, a rival service from, well, Disney, has gotten off to an even faster start than HBO Max, due largely to its massive content library. That service reached almost 75 million subscribers in its first year after launching in November 2019. Granted, Disney+ also costs just one-third the monthly price of HBO Max, so one might argue that each HBO Max subscriber is much more valuable than each Disney+ subscriber.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “HBO Max Usage Surged This Quarter”

  1. yoshi

    I wonder how much faster those numbers will go up once they ink a deal with Roku. I'm close to shifting to Fire TV just for HBO Max, but really don't want to change my entire platform for one service.

  2. Patrick3D

    I would have preferred Warner Bros. stick with the premium VOD model we saw with Trolls World Tour where multiple streaming sites offer the movie. This exclusivity with HBO Max is a step backwards and a dangerous move. Separation of studios and theaters occurred for a reason and this sets a dark precedent.

    • Paul Thurrott

      This seems like the better deal. New VOD movies are typically $20 to $30, and HBO Max is $15 per month. So you get to see that movie plus all the other content on the service.
  3. helix2301

    I was kind of shocked at the low numbers cause they unlike netflix have big blockbuster movies. I guess Roku n Firestick might have slowed them down a bit.

  4. mattbg

    The way they're doing the theatrical releases is pretty smart. They will be on HBO Max for 1 month, after which they disappear and then end up on other media/platforms after a release window passes.


    So, assuming they have a typical theatrical release cadence, you will not just be able to subscribe for 1 month in mid-year and binge the year's theatrical releases to date.


    Has anyone seen confirmation that the theatrical releases will actually be included in the regular monthly rate for HBO Max? Disney+ carried Pocahontas in lieu of a theatrical release but you had to pay an extra premium on top of the monthly rate for the one movie. The above staging sounds like Warner may position their theatrical-streaming movies the same way.


    Having said all of that, I can't even get HBO Max in Canada (we can't even stream HBO directly from HBO) and I imagine many other countries have some combination of these problems.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to mattbg:

      Yes, Warner has confirmed that the theatrical releases will all be included in the regular monthly subscription price for HBO Max.


      While Disney did charge a premium for "Mulan", they are still experimenting with pricing. The new Pixar film, "Soul" (which was supposed to be a major theatrical release last summer) is releasing for no extra cost on Disney+ on Christmas Day, the same day as "Wonder Woman 1984" on HBO Max.

  5. jchampeau

    Some of those new subscribers are AT&T Wireless subscribers like me who now get it included with their rate plans. I wouldn't pay $15/month for the service, but I'm happy to use it for free.

    • Scott Ross

      In reply to jchampeau:

      When I was looking for a new phone the HBOmax included in the plan (its not free) was the thing that pushed me to ATT. This was way before Wonder woman was announced for Christmas Day . I had a feeling DC Universe shows were getting moved over, along with not having HBO for a few years, I wanted to catch up on some shows/mini series like Chernoybl and Watchmen. I wonder how many people who got new att phones took advantage of this?

    • gf0rce1

      In reply to jchampeau:

      Absolutely, and it's not just AT&T wireless. It appears that anyone with DirecTV, AT&T internet, or an HBO cable subscription gets this stuff for free. Seems kind of trivial to call that 'growth'.

  6. harmjr

    Ok but how many of those are just the HBO subscribers via the Cable company. I know Comcast has been quick to tell me I have HBO Max now since I have it via the cable company.

    • captobie

      In reply to harmjr:

      Does it really matter, you’re still giving money to HBO. They’ve long included streaming access with a cable TV subscription with HBO Go.


      And regardless, those accounts have been HBO Max “subscribers” from day one. This increase is from recent subscriptions.

  7. andyhi

    Usage soared as they started including the service for free for some existing customers... I cant tell you how many emails they’ve sent nor the number of targeted ads I’ve seen in the account management app and web site.

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