WarnerMedia Streaming Service Gets A Name, Will Include ‘Friends’ Library, Greg Berlanti & Reese Witherspoon Films, CW Series
WarnerMedia has officially anointed its soon-to-launch streaming service HBO Max, which will carry full-season libraries of Friends as well as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Pretty Little Liars.
Under new arrangements with Warner Bros Television and others, all 236 episodes of Friends — a longtime mainstay of Netflix — will come to the new service, as will an estimated rollout of 10,000 hours of programming at launch. WarnerMedia has said a beta version of HBO Max will be out by the end of 2019, with a full-bodied version in spring 2020. An ad-supported offering is also in the works, though subscription will be the first phase.
Pricing remains a key strategic question. Disney’s reveal in April of its Disney+ service at just $7 a month has set forth a challenge for many competitors. WarnerMedia is in a particular bind, with HBO’s relationships with pay-TV operators (who have partnered to develop the network over many decades) keeping the price of stand-alone service HBO Now at $15 a month. Most observers expect WarnerMedia to price HBO Max above the current level for HBO Now, though the company and its parent, AT&T, have not yet disclosed pricing details. It is also unclear how — or if — HBO Max will be differentiated from HBO Now, the stand-alone service that has racked up 8 million subscribers since its 2015 launch.
Disney, NBCUniversal and Apple are all preparing major new entrants in the streaming wars, a long-developing response to Netflix’s steady climb to more than 150 million global subscribers.
Greg Berlanti, who is locked into a rich Warner Bros deal, is also going to be supplying four new movies for the service, and Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films.
“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer. “HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is Friends.”