HBO Max launched an ad-supported tier for $9.99 per month today, making it a more affordable option than the full $14.99 per month ad-free subscription.
The streaming service, which has 64 million customers, has been considering an ad-supported tier in order to attract a larger audience. The pricing makes it less expensive than a basic Netflix package, but it is still more expensive than Disney+. HBO claims the industry’s “lightest ad load,” but it will contain new ad forms such as “pause advertisements,” which will display adverts when programs are paused.
Ad-supported users will have access to “the complete HBO Max content collection” with one major exception: they will not be able to watch Warner Bros. movies that are released on streaming and in cinemas on the same day.
The ad-supported service goes live in the United States first. By the end of the month, HBO Max’s ad-free service will be available in 39 countries spanning Latin America and the Caribbean. Warner Media aims to migrate HBO-branded subscription services to HBO Max by the end of 2021 in Europe.
Why ad-supported HBO Max doesn’t look like a great idea.
While other ad-supported streaming services have incorporated advertisements in a natural way — advertising is a part of life for Peacock and Paramount Plus — HBO Max confronts customers accustomed to a premium service. HBO Max is wagering that ad-supported users will be attracted to upgrade, claiming that some may “fall in love after that first day and decide to go all-in and pay the extra premium.”
Admittedly, there is a segment of the HBO Max pie where advertisements make sense. Consider HBO Max to be divided into two parts: the HBO originals and the Max. The latter includes everything they brought in, such as Big Bang Theory, Friends, and others. Although advertising on HBO Max makes sense for the TV material in the Max half, it doesn’t make sense for the HBO originals. That’s why we’re relieved to hear HBO say, “Additionally, commercials will not play during HBO programs.”
No same-day WB movies
Then there’s the huge asterisk with the ad-supported HBO Max. You lose access to major Warner Bros. films, which are released in 30-day increments beginning the day they enter cinemas.
Recent examples include Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat. Upcoming blockbusters like The Suicide Squad, Space Jam 2, and Dune provide even more reason to subscribe to ad-free HBO Max. And I’m not referring to HBO Max as a substitute for going to the movies. The option to revisit new movies that you saw in cinemas and enjoyed is the major deal here, in my opinion.
We’re guessing HBO Max is just hoping that consumers value its programming higher. That is why its starting price of $14.99 is so much higher. Will it be as compelling without the big movies and advertisements in HBO shows where they don’t belong? We’ll probably find out when Warner Media releases the numbers after a couple of months.