HBO Max Gains Traction in a Crowded Field

AT&T added 2.7 million new customers to HBO and HBO Max in the first quarter, a boost for the company’s new streaming effort in an increasingly crowded field.

The company’s WarnerMedia division, which includes HBO, recorded $8.5 billion in revenue for the period, a 9.8 percent jump over last year, when theater sales and advertising revenue plummeted during the pandemic. Led by the chief executive Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia also includes the cable networks CNN and Turner and the Warner Bros. film studios.

HBO is the cornerstone of AT&T’s media strategy, and the company sees HBO Max as a way to keep its mobile customers from fleeing, offering the streaming platform at a discount to its phone subscribers.

In its report on the year’s first quarter, AT&T stopped disclosing the number of active HBO Max users, obscuring how many people are actually tuned into the new streaming service.

reported earnings on Tuesday, remains the leader, with 67 million customers in the U.S. and nearly 208 million in total.

Netflix’s dominance has started to wane, in part because of newer entrants like HBO Max and Disney+. Netflix added four million new subscribers in the quarter, with a little more than 400,000 in the U.S.

Netflix chalked up the comparatively sluggish growth to the production slowdown that came when Hollywood studios largely stopped making new shows and films during the pandemic. The company said it expected a more successful second half of the year, when returning favorites and highly anticipated films become available.

In the case of HBO Max, the streamer likely got a boost from an unorthodox strategy championed by Mr. Kilar: The sibling company Warner Bros. plans to release its entire lineup of 2021 films on HBO Max on the same day they’re scheduled to appear in theaters. The announcement rumbled throughout Hollywood, angering agents and filmmakers who stood to lose out on crucial bonuses and commissions by short-circuiting the old theatrical release schedule.

global expansion of HBO Max starting this June, along with a lower-cost version of the service that will include commercials. The company has about 19.7 million HBO customers overseas that it hopes to convert into HBO Max subscribers.

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