HBO throws out rulebook with streaming launch
LOS ANGELES: Decades before glossy Netflix and Amazon shows began luring Hollywood A-listers to the small screen, cable network HBO helped invent premium television.
Now the home of “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Game of Thrones” is scrambling to catch up with its newfound online rivals, launching its own multi-billion-dollar streaming platform — HBO Max — this Wednesday.
“Within the crowded constellation of entertainment brands, HBO is a crown jewel,” said University of Southern California communications professor Christopher Smith.
“They’re using the HBO brand bludgeon to break their way through in the streaming wars.”
The platform enters a competitive marketplace. Besides Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, the likes of Disney+, Apple TV+ and Quibi have recently joined the fray.
But having licensed its films and series to other streamers for years, parent company WarnerMedia felt it could no longer skirt the direct-to-consumer revolution seizing Hollywood.
HBO Max’s launch follows telecoms giant AT&T’s $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, and brings that sprawling media empire’s titles under one roof.
Beloved Warner Bros shows like “Friends,” and films from “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane” to the “Batman” movies, will sit alongside prestige HBO programs on the service.
Indeed, HBO Max was supposed to launch with a long-anticipated “Friends” reunion, until the coronavirus ended those plans.
With the pandemic delaying new filming across Hollywood, HBO Max executives are counting on comforting classics to lure subscribers in anxious times.
“We’re really tapping into the nostalgia and the warm feeling that’s associated with these iconic characters that people love, and stories that they’ve fallen in love with year and year again,” said marketing head Katie Soo.
“The reality is, this is a challenging time,” she told a recent Variety webinar. “There’s no playbook for it.”