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HBO Max Picked Up Most Subs in Quarter: Kantar

HBO Max will debut "Zach Snyder's Justice League" on March 18.
Movies like Zach Snyder's 'Justice League' are helping HBO Max draw new subscribers. (Image credit: Warner Media)

HBO Max signed up the most new subscribers in the quarter ending in March as total U.S. streaming video subscribers neared a quarter billion, according to Kantar.

HBO Max has 14% of the new signups for paid streaming services, down from 19.2% in the December quarter, when it was also No 1. 

The launch ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus and Discovery’s Discovery Plus were responsible for most more established services having a smaller share of new signups.

Paramount Plus accounted for 11.8% of new sign ups--more than all but HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video-- and Discovery Plus garnered 7.7%.

Overall Kantar said that 7% of U.S. households signed up for a new SVOD subscription in the quarter and that the total number of subscriptions was at 241 million at the end of March.

“In a quarter which saw the launch of Paramount Plus and Discovery Plus, it’s all the more impressive HBO Max held onto the No. 1 spot in share of new SVoD subscribers,” said Dominic Sunnebo, senior VP at Kantar’s Worldpanel Division. 

HBO is not just winning new subscribers, it’s also dramatically increasing the advocacy rates of its subscriber base at the same time, Sunnebo said. When HBO Max launched in 2020 its Net Promoter Score--a measure of subscriber advocacy--was the 10th highest in the SVoD market. It is  now No. 2.

"This bodes well for both retention and word of mouth recommendation to drive future subscriber acquisition. Subscribers specifically cite the number of new release films as a key catalyst to their increased satisfaction with the HBO Max service," Sunnebo said.

Kantar noted that the average number of SVOD subscriptions in each U.S. household continues to rise, hitting 3.8 in the first quarter, up from 3.3 a year ago. 

At the same time, households that plan to cancel at least one SVOD subscription in the next 3 months rose to 24.9%, up from 20.5% the previous quarter and 23.2% a year ago.

With the cost of hosting multiple video streaming subscriptions increasing, ad-supported services are experiencing strong growth, with Peacock Free and Tubi leading in growth. 

Behind HBO Max in picking up new subscribers was Amazon Prime, which got 13.2% of new subscribers, down from 18.2% in the December quarter.

Paramount Plus was third. Kantar said Star Trek was the driver for Paramount Plus’ performance,  with 53% of new subscribers saying they signed up because of a specific title and 24% of these citing Star Trek. Stephen Kings’ The Stand also proved attractive, with 9% of new content driven customers referring to the mini-series.

Disney Plus was fourth with 11.6%, down from 13%; Hulu, with 10.6%, down from 13.7% and Netflix, up to 8.5% from 7.4%. 

WandaVision on Disney Plus was the top rated SVOD title, followed by its The Mandalorian. Disney Plus is winning acclaim for the quality of its titles, but consumer sentiment is also improving significantly across the amount of original content it offers, Kantar said. Net satisfaction in this area has improved from 20% in Q1 2020 to 33% in Q1 2021, which usually helps with long-term subscriber retention.

Discovery Plus was No. 8, followed by Apple TV Plus with 5.6%, down from 5.9% and Peacock, with 4.7% down from 4.4%. 

Discovery Plus’ TV launch campaign was effective, Kantar said, with 68% of new subscribers saying watching a TV spot for the service was a key part of their decision making process, while 40% stated they were enticed through a free trial offer. The service has proved particularly older-skewing households. Titles including Ghost Adventures, Fixer Upper, 90 Day Fiancé and Expedition Bigfoot helped drive subscriber acquisition in the quarter.