Last week, AT&T’s CEO John Stankey presented a rosy outlook to investors during the company’s first quarter earnings call, including a net gain of 2.7M new subscribers combined for HBO channels on traditional cable and HBO Max streaming. Out of this number, 9.7M were reported to have signed on through distribution partners such as Roku, Apple TV and others. These numbers exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, and contributed to a lift in the company’s earnings and stock price. Last December, AT&T’s WarnerMedia division shocked the film industry by announcing that its Warner Bros. studio would release its entire slate of movies during 2021 both in theatres and on HBO Max streaming simultaneously, eliminating its long-standing practice of offering exhibitors an exclusive theatrical window during which to play its releases. At the time of that announcement, WB execs explained that this change was due to the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, having closed or severely limited movie theatres in their ability to operate and draw the large audiences that blockbusters depend on to return a profit. HBO Max has trailed other front-line streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ in subscriber counts. However, based on its recent success, studio execs are now projecting that the service will have up to 120M to 150M subscribers by 2025.
During Q1, Warner Bros. releases premiering on HBO Max included All the Little Things, Tom & Jerry and the much-hyped Zach Snyder cut of Justice League. Godzilla Vs. Kong debuted on the last day of the quarter, March 31st, with a buzz that is expected to move the needle on new subscriptions.
See also: AT&T’s Revenue Rises as Wireless Unit, HBO Add Customers (Wall Street Journal)