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How Did HBO Max Promote Tune-In for the 'Friends' Reunion?

HBO Max's 'Friends: Reunion'
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Though the final episode of Friends aired on NBC 17 years ago, you certainly wouldn’t know it. Since then, its popularity has only risen via streaming and syndication. Data from iSpot shows it remains one of the top shows for delivering TV ad impressions, too — it’s fourth overall in 2021 so far, with over 26.9 billion year-to-date.

With that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that the show’s long-awaited reunion special, which is available on HBO Max, was bound to generate excitement — for both the show’s fans and the streaming service, which hopes to use the event to increase subscription numbers.

iSpot data shows that HBO Max has aired three different promo spots for the reunion special since May 1, equating to 93.7 million TV ad impressions — over 20% of the service’s impressions in the timeframe. Interestingly, nearly all of those TV ad impressions came from WarnerMedia-owned networks. And (as noted by Marketing Brew earlier in the promo cycle), over 54% of those impressions came during airings of … Friends.

Among the other top shows HBO Max aired Friends reunion special ads during: 2 Broke Girls (5.9% of TV ad impressions), George Lopez (4.2%), Charmed (3.3%) and NCIS: New Orleans (3.3%). Nearly 60% of those impressions came during daytime programming, with just 8.2% in primetime.

The big takeaway around the streamer’s TV strategy? It appeared most concerned with making absolutely sure that Friends fans know about the reunion show and that HBO Max is the exclusive place to stream Friends (if they didn’t know already). On top of spots for the reunion show, three more general Friends spots also aired in the May 1-June 3 timeframe, totaling another 1.6 million TV ad impressions (all of which were during syndicated Friends airings).

HBO Max took to social media as well, though, to make sure Friends fanatics tuned in — either when the special first dropped, or after the fact. Data from Tubular Labs shows that Friends reunion special content (including promos, interviews and clips) generated over 89 million video views on YouTube alone since May 1, with over a third coming from WarnerMedia-owned accounts.

The official reunion trailer had the most Friends-related views on YouTube, with 19.4 million in just over two weeks, while People’s exclusive interview with the cast in advance generated another 6.6 million. Interestingly, Entertainment Tonight created the most YouTube videos about the reunion special, with 14 overall (earning 15.9 million views in the process).

YouTube views for HBO Max-owned accounts overall also rose with the hype around the reunion. In collecting more than 56 million views in May, HBO Max racked up its highest monthly YouTube view tally since May 2020 (nearly 66 million). That month was boosted by the service’s debut and a slew of promos around what was appearing on it. Though, surprisingly, HBO Max actually uploaded more YouTube videos (78) this past month than it did in May 2020 (58).

John Cassillo is an analyst and contributor with TV[R]EV.