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Jason Kilar Calls App-Based Distribution Key to HBO Max Growth

Jason Kilar
Jason Kilar at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference

Jason Kilar, CEO of AT&T’s WarnerMedia said HBO Max has been able to balance growing its subscribers and keeping its direct-to-consumer relationships via app-based distribution.

The streaming world has gotten complicated and HBO Max’s rollout was complicated as it worked to make deals with key players including Amazon, Roku and Apple.

KiIar, speaking Thursday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, said that HBO Max has been able to find ways to partner with those distributors that fit in with WarnerMedia’s desire to build a direct-to-consumer service.

“The content you enjoy from HBO Max is being served from our servers. We’re the ones that have the communications rights for that customer. We’re the ones that have the communications rights for that customer,” he said. 

“We have been very careful and very persistent, to put it mildly about making sure that we stay true to what we see as an incredibly important strategic part of our future, which is that we need to build a service that matters in a crowded landscape,” Kilar said. “We’re absolutely on the path to doing that and if we can be one of those few services that truly matter, I believe we’ll be able to have direct-to consumer relationships.”

Similarly Netflix and Disney have also found ways to work with the streaming distributors, he noted.

“Kudos to Amazon and Roku and Apple and others who have obviously been listening carefully to what’s important to us,” Kilar said. “It turns out you can do this, but it sometimes takes a couple of months to be able to have the conversations.”

Kilar said that a big benefit of the upcoming ad-supported version of HBO Max is the lower price point it will support.

“One of the things that advertising can do if you're thoughtful about it and you're elegant about it, and you’re personalized about it., you can actually do something that's very helpful for consumers," he said. “You're able to reduce the price for a consumer and it turns out that most people on this planet are not wealthy.”

AT&T last month announced that HBO and HBO Max had 41.5 million subscribers, despite an ad-free price that’s higher than other competitors in the streaming space.

“The short answer is that the customers have spoken,” Kilar said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do the math and look at total revenue that’s being generated by HBO Mas and HBO in the U.S. market . . . we’re probably, I assume the number-two revenue-generating service in terms of direct consumer services.”

He added that HBO’s consumer count is way ahead of its original guidance and more than many other recently-launched entrants into the streaming wars.

“It can take other companies a decade to get to where we are today,” he said.