A cheaper, ad-supported version of HBO Max will launch in the first week of June for $10 a month, the company announced today.
“We plan to supercharge HBO Max’s growth this year with the launch of the ad-supported HBO Max,” WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said during today’s Upfront.
The only major difference between the ad-supported tier and the regular tier ($15 a month) is access to day-of releases like Godzilla vs Kong. Those on the cheaper, ad-supported tier will not be able to watch Same-Day Premieres, as WarnerMedia refers to the simultaneous release. It’s unclear if customers on the ad-supported tier will be able to purchase them as part of a one-time purchase within the app.
WarnerMedia executives have touted the cheaper tier for months. After launching at $15 a month (on par with HBO’s cable subscription and earlier streaming services like HBO Now), executives acknowledged that it might be too expensive for many Americans. As HBO Max starts its global expansion, having a cheaper tier that is more inline price wise with Netflix or Disney+ plays to HBO Max’s advantage.
“The team feels really good about their momentum,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said during an earnings call in March. “We haven’t seen our best days.”
Up until today, details about what an ad-supported version of HBO Max looked like remained pretty unknown. We knew ads wouldn’t play before or during HBO originals, like The Nevers, Sex and the City, or The Sopranos, according to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. We also knew that ads would feel light, as Kilar also noted during an analyst day earlier this year.
But that’s it. We didn’t know what those ads would look like on television sets, mobile, or desktop. We didn’t know how often they’d play, or if they would be the same ad over and over again (a la Hulu).
Now, there’s a new world of uncertainty for HBO Max and WarnerMedia. Today’s news, alongside a flurry of other announcements made during WarnerMedia’s annual Upfront presentation to advertisers, comes just two days after AT&T announced it was spinning off WarnerMedia. The entertainment company is merging with Discovery (home of Guy Fieri and the Property Brothers) in a deal valued at $43 billion. The goal is to create a super entertainment company.
How this deal affects HBO Max overall is still unknown. It’s likely that we won’t know what HBO Max becomes for a little while longer. For now, however, people who wanted HBO Max but didn’t want to spend $15 a month can now get it for slightly cheaper — as long as they don’t mind dealing with ads.