Forssell is in charge of the new HBO Max business group, overseeing international expansion. Already, there have been plenty of challenges. The $14.99-a-month service launched in May with a confusing brand proposition, and lacking distribution deals with Amazon Fire TV or Roku. More than 30 planned original shows had to be scuttled or delayed as a result of the pandemic.
In October, however, WarnerMedia reported that HBO and HBO Max were reaching 38 million combined subscribers — up from 33 million at the end of March — including 8.6 million on HBO Max.
“From programming to product to technology to marketing and everything in between, the team did not miss a beat when we went into lockdown in March,” Forssell said. “While we had to adjust some of our plans, especially marketing, which planned extensive campaigns around live sporting events, the launch was pretty seamless.”
With an Amazon deal now in place, a Roku pact reportedly on the way and an end to the pandemic at least in sight, HBO Max has aggressive growth benchmarks to meet.
AT&T CEO John Stankey, who has pledged to invest $4 billion into HBO Max over the next three years, has also told investors that he wants the service to have more than 50 million U.S. subscribers by 2025.
Forssell’s international agenda is also ambitious.
The SVOD’s first international launch will be in Latin America in the first half of 2021. HBO Max will also “start upgrading HBO branded streaming services in Europe to HBO Max,” Forssell said.
Forssell is also focused on content. Hit TV franchises like “Friends” and “South Park” are available to HBO Max subscribers, as are series and movies from within the broader WarnerMedia portfolio and superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” is set to debut on Dec. 25.
“We’ll need to add capabilities to accept new payment methods for each region and, of course, provide full local language support,” he added. “To be successful, streaming services must be global in operation but local in appeal, so that means adding regional programming as well as very tailored marketing efforts that authentically reach audiences in each country.”
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