TCA: WarnerMedia Betting Consumers Will Find Value in HBO Max

Pasadena, Calif. — As WarnerMedia moves closer to the May launch of its streaming service HBO Max, executives speaking Wednesday at the company’s TCA press tour session offered an optimistic view of how the service will be competitive in an increasingly crowded subscription video on demand environment.

Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, & truTV -- on stage with HBO Max head of original content Sarah Aubrey and executive VP of content acquisitions Michael Quigley -- described the HBO Max service as a store that will offer consumers a plethora of content targeted to different age groups and audiences.

“We’re going to be a store that is not a superstore; we’re going to have aisles for the preschool age … all the way up to classic films,” he said. “We hope that as the consumer goes down one of those aisles, we’ll have more things per square foot than you would seek out.”

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Reilly said he doesn’t believe that the service’s $14.99 monthly price tag is too high for consumers, even with other SVOD offerings like Disney+ charging much lower monthly fees. He also said WarnerMedia will offer a less expensive AVOD offering about one year after launch.

“I think price is overstated for the initial wave,” he said. “People do not shop for their entertainment experience with price being the primary factor.”

Reilly said that most of WarnerMedia’s current SVOD services -- including HBO Now, Boomerang and DC Universe -- will continue to exist, with some original content from those services migrating to HBO Max. Up in the air is the fate of original programming from the Audience Network, which WarnerMedia recently announced would be shut down and converted into a barker channel for HBO Max.

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One WarnerMedia network that HBO Max will not migrate original programming from is HBO sister premium service Cinemax, according to Quigley. Reilly added that the premium channel will remain in business but will no longer support original shows like Warrior.

Reilly also said not every series or movie it has rights to will be available on the service at launch. “I don’t think ubiquity is a good thing necessarily,” he said. “It will be a deep, broad experience with a lot to choose from, but we’re going to try to maintain the singularity of the experience where it's not so overwhelming where you feel like you only see a fraction of it.”

As for the future of traditional linear cable, Reilly believes that the MVPD’s continued loss of subscribers to streaming services could be managed with better video-on-demand offerings and skinnier bundles.

“As VOD improves and you get to a pure skinny bundle, I think that’s the best bet to ultimately stabilize that business,” he said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.