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Will HBO Max Find Its Audience?

May 18, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

With all the free time you have you might have found yourself thinking about all the streaming options you have at your fingertips. You also might have thought that you don’t have enough and need more.

Enter HBO Max. It’s the latest streaming service to launch, and at $15 a month, the most expensive.

It’s entering the streaming wars at an odd time and with everything going on, will it sink or swim?

Things will be heat up as WarnerMedia is banking on making a significant impact with HBO Max. This will be their third streaming option under the Home Box Office banner, which is raising questions for those with HBO Now and HBO Go.

Besides offering selections like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and The Sopranos, subscribers will also get access to such hits asFriends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and more. The service will also offer a slate of original programming not available on HBO Now, or HBO Go, with some of them becoming available at launch. 

That’s not all. Wanting the launch to go smooth, they’re covering their bases. according to Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications. AT&T owns WarnerMedia, parent of HBO, in case you didn’t know.

McElfresh said he believes that HBO Max’s launch will be smoother than those of other services, which have suffered from outages. “We can offer a unique value proposition to consumers and certainly a level of service where we don’t encounter service interruptions,” McElfresh said in an interview. “We know how to scale.”

Given that a large number of people have been at home the last couple of month, McElfresh noted that viewing has spiked generally, and subscription video on demand is up, though he said it was too early to tell if the lockdown has permanently accelerated the trend of cord cutting. 

All the technical stuff is nice but the bottomline is HBO Max will be $15 and is what they’re offering going to be worth that?

HBO Max will include all the shows and movies on HBO, plus a selection of licensed content like the above mentioned Friends along with The Big Bang Theory, Rick & Morty and South Park. At launch, HBO Max said it’ll have 10,000 hours of content to stream.

Other highlights include:
** The full sets of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Matrix trilogies.
** The Lego movies.
** DC films like Joker, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Shazam, Aquaman and every Batman and Superman movie of the last 40 years.
** Studio Ghibli anime films that have never been released for streaming in the US before.
** Anime selections like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and other top titles from anime-focused streaming service Crunchyroll, which is ultimately also owned by AT&T.
**Classic movies like The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, The Shining, Singin’ in the Rain, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Goonies, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and many others.
** Recent hits like Crazy Rich Asians and A Star Is Born.

Ultimately, HBO Max will have more than 18,000 movies. It has also secured deals for past seasons of Rick and Morty; 11 of the most recent seasons of Doctor Who, plus another three to come; CW dramas like Pretty Little Liars, Batwoman, and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene as well as more upcoming CW series; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; The West Wing; and British series like Luther and Ricky Gervais’ original The Office, among many others. 

Of course HBO Max will have exclusive original shows and movies, called Max Originals. For the most part, original series on HBO Max will drop new episodes on a weekly basis.

At launch on May 27, the originals will include:

Love Life, the comedy with Anna Kendrick.
On the Record, the controversial documentary film.
Legendary, about underground ballroom dance.
Craftopia, the YouTuber-hosted craft series.
New Looney Tunes cartoons.
The Not Too Late Show with Elmo.
After launch, the next Max Originals that’ve been scheduled for release are:

Karma, an unscripted kids adventure competition series.
Doom Patrol, the second season of the DC Universe series.
Esme & Roy, the second season of the preschool animated series from Sesame Workshop.
Search Party, the third season of the comedy thriller that originally aired on TBS.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands-BMO, which is the first of four specials resurrecting Cartoon Network’s franchise Adventure Time.
This will be HUGE with 411mania readers…Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries about comedian Amy Schumer’s life on tour during her pregnancy.
Close Enough, an animated comedy about millennial roommates.
The House of Ho, a multigenerational family docusoap.
Tig n’ Seek, an animated children’s series from Cartoon Network Studios about an 8-year-old and his gadget-building cat.
Frayed, a scripted comedy about a wealthy Londoner who goes back to her Australian hometown.
The Dog House, an unscripted British animal rescue series.
American Pickle, the Seth Rogen comedy that is HBO Max’s first original film.
Want more? Sure! 
The Flight Attendant, starring and executive produced by Kaley Cuoco based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian.
The Friends unscripted cast reunion special. A quick note on that. They are missing a HUGE opportunity by not doing a reunion episode special where we get them together for a Thanksgiving themed episode. Back to the list. Sci-fi epic Raised by Wolves from director and executive producer Ridley Scott. The 10-episode series focuses on two androids raising human children on a mysterious planet. The show has already wrapped production in South Africa.

Some of the other highlights of the originals set for HBO Max include:

** New DC titles. A Green Lantern series that producer Greg Berlanti says will travel to space and “promises to be our biggest DC show ever made.” ** Strange Adventures, a one-hour drama anthology series also produced by Berlanti that explores the intersecting lives of mortals and superhumans. ** DC Super Hero High will be a half-hour comedy from Elizabeth Banks that’ll focus on a group of adolescent students at a boarding school for “gifted” kids.
** Projects by J.J. Abrams. Abrams, known for a parade of television and box office hits, signed a megadeal with AT&T and WarnerMedia to make projects for the company. On HBO Max, he’ll help produce a show set in the Justice League Dark universe; Overlook, a thriller based on Stephen King’s The Shining and set in the Overlook Hotel; and a 1970s crime show called Duster.
** A half-hour comedy from actress-producer Issa Rae. Rae’s Rap Sh*t explores the music business in Miami through the eyes of three women: an upstart hip-hop duo and their hustling manager.
** A half-hour comedy from actress/producer Mindy Kaling. College Girls (a working title) tracks three 18-year-old freshman roommates at Evermore College in Vermont.
** The Boondocks animated series is getting “two reimagined seasons” along with a 50-minute special originally planned for fall 2020.
** A new Jellystone animated series with the classic Hanna-Barbera characters from Warner Bros. Animation.
** A new animated series from Cartoon Network Studios called The Fungies, as well as a hybrid live-action/animated comedy, Tooned Out, from Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis.
** Comedy specials from Conan O’Brien and the team behind his TBS show. They’ll be developing five stand-up specials for HBO Max: O’Brien will host two specials that feature short sets from multiple up-and-coming comics and curate hourlong sets from three comedians. That slate will join another one-hour special from comedian James Veitch.

The service will have a smaller slate of original films, between five and 10 per year, according to the original plan. Early highlights on the original movie slate include:

A two-picture deal with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.
A documentary about Anthony Bourdain.
A four-picture deal with Berlanti, including Unpregnant, about two teenage girls who go on a road trip to New Mexico after one finds out she’s pregnant, based on the young adult novel by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan.
Super Intelligence, a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy about a woman whose romantic life is selected for observation by artificial intelligence.
Bobbie Sue, a comedy feature starring Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez as an up-and-coming young lawyer who joins a stuffy Boston law firm.

That’s not even everything! Are you not entertained? Looks like they’re going all in with offerings for just about every demographic. What did you see that got your interest? Wi;; you be signing up for HBO Max?

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HBO Max, Steve Gustafson