HBO Max’s biggest competitor: HBO

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(Bloomberg Opinion) – HBO Max starts in just two days and has the potential to be one of the best streaming TV apps on the market. The only problem is that consumers seem to have no idea what it says.

In a survey conducted by Morning Consult and the Hollywood reporter earlier this month, around 2,000 US adults were asked to choose from a list of TV shows and film titles that they believed will be available on HBO Max, a new Netflix-like service launched by the WarnerMedia division of AT&T Inc. The results should alarm company executives:

As the graph shows, hardly any of the respondents knew that HBO Max would be the exclusive streaming destination for the hit sitcoms “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” – coveted content rights that WarnerMedia reportedly has more than 900 million US dollars -Dollar has spent safely on the new service. The respondents also did not realize that DC Comics films and “Sesame Street” were on HBO Max.

HBO has been a standalone force for so long that most people just don’t realize it shares a parent company with Warner Bros. studios and other television channels like Cartoon Network, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. This is a shame, since the same survey found that including such content would increase the likelihood that many consumers would sign up. The most meaningful answer: Most of the respondents did not even believe that “Game of Thrones” – the first series in HBO’s entire 47-year history – would be accessible via HBO Max, although it contains “HBO” the name.

The confusion can be forgiven to consumers. The Americans’ previous experience with streaming TV apps shows that nothing is intuitive and that everything is difficult to find. For example, ESPN + is not a digital replica of regular ESPN. It is a completely different product. And “Friends” has been available on Netflix for years, so young people may only know it as a Netflix show. With no knowledge of HBO’s ownership and WarnerMedia’s recent dealmaking, there is no obvious reason why Central Perk is in the same block as Sesame Street, just around the corner from Westeros on the HBO Max streaming continent. To make matters even more confusing, it costs streaming regular HBO (via the HBO Now app) and signing up for HBO Max do exactly the same thing – $ 15 a month.

Disney +, which has logged in more than 50 million users since its launch in November, does not share the HBO Max brand problem. The only thing that respondents seemed to know for sure is that “The Mandalorian” is not part of HBO Max. And that’s probably because Walt Disney Co. has successfully restored “Star Wars” as a Disney property, although it has only owned the franchise since 2012. The same applies to Pixar and Marvel. For this reason, the biggest problem with Disney +, which focuses so closely on superheroes and child-friendly programming, can be a strength.

The biggest challenge for other streaming services could be building loyalty when viewers are not entirely sure what to expect. Moving away from the appointment display on cable television means that while we remain true to certain series and trilogies, we don’t necessarily know (or take care of) which networks or studios they are connected to.

For WarnerMedia, it is certainly still a big advantage to keep using the HBO name for its new product – people are immediately prompted to expect great content (and hopefully the quality will not be affected if they try to use the Netflix production factory Keep up). . At the same time, it is difficult and expensive to tell consumers what HBO Max is. This is especially true when part of the content is temporarily licensed by competitors like Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”, thanks to distribution agreements before the streaming wars. (Remember, “X-Men” is Marvel, not the DC Extended Universe.)

HBO Max could give other apps a run for their money. But how can it be easily explained that it is like normal HBO, but all these other things that you will probably like as well, but cost nothing extra? Good luck with fitting into a convincing advertisement.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist who specializes in entertainment, telecommunications, and broader deals. Previously, she wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.

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