The constant stream of new theatrical releases from Warner Bros. Landing on HBO Max this year as both theatrical and day-to-day streaming premieres gave a big boost to the buzz and, more importantly, subscribers to the all-new streaming service that launched in late May. 2020.
But this year on a biannual basis, HBO Max executives look to 2022, when the service lacks high-powered titles to attract new paying customers and encourage existing subscribers to sample content from the original series. The new Warner Bros. such as “Wonder Woman 1984”, “Godzilla Vs. Kong”, “Mortal Kombat” “In the Heights” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” were workhorses that certainly helped viewers experience HBO Max and the recent breakouts from HBO’s “Hacks”, “Mare of Easttown” and the “Friends” reunion special.
“There has been a lot of interaction between these titles and the movies of the day,” said Andy Forssell, executive vice president and general manager of HBO Max. “A huge percentage of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ audiences watched ‘The Flight Attendant.’ It set the tone for the year. We’ve learned a lot about how these (movie) release schedules and episodic premieres can work together.
The unexpected boon of having so many Warner Bros. tents Simultaneously available on HBO Max allowed the company to study “how users think about movies and episodic content and how they drive acquisition and retention,” Forssell said.
But it’s clear that HBO Max won’t enjoy the same volume of releases day and date in 2022. WarnerMedia has made the bold call for Warner Bros. ‘ The entire 2021 theatrical roster has concurrent premieres given the exhibits industry was so hampered by the pandemic and social distancing mandates. But comments from WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on AT&T’s quarterly earnings call on July 22 made it clear that the studio’s tents would no longer have a double exit plan. Kilar said Warner Bros. would produce 10 or more movies exclusively for HBO Max by 2022.
For HBO Max, that means original content from HBO and HBO Max will have to do more heavy lifting. Forssell assures us that they are up to the task. For starters, one of the series on HBO’s 2022 slate is “House of the Dragon,” the highly anticipated “Game of Thrones” prequel, and a big investment in DC Comics’ “Peacemaker” property, a spin -off of “The Suicide Squad” – one of the 2021 films which will bow August 6 on HBO Max and as a wide theatrical release.
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“2022 will only be a phenomenal year for episodic content,” Forssell said. “Not only better than in 2021 but significantly better” in terms of volume. Of course, HBO Max’s best plans for original content have been derailed in part by the pandemic and production shutdowns, so part of 2022 is catching up with shows that were supposed to be ready to air this year.
Forssell said it was too early to get a definitive answer as to whether HBO Max had gotten movie titles with date and date from Warner Bros. next year. The studio said that starting next year, it will switch to an exclusive 45-day expedited window for theatrical exposure before the first home entertainment window begins – compared to the current standard of 75. to 90 days.
“The whole industry is experimenting with windowing in film on every level,” Forssell said. “This business will continue to be important to the fans and to the exhibitors and to us as well. Movies are really good for SVOD services.
Kilar noted during the conference call that Warner Bros. will produce 10 or more movies exclusively for HBO Max by 2022. Forssell pointed out that titles designed for Max will have big budgets and well-known faces. According to him, the more WarnerMedia invests in content for HBO Max, the more it will be able to afford high-end content. Forssell said he told his Warner Bros. counterparts, “My job is to expand the subscriber base so that we can afford to pay more for your movies than your other buyers.”
The challenge HBO Max faces on this point is reinforced by financial data released by AT&T early Thursday. WarnerMedia’s programming costs jumped 75% from the previous year to $ 4.2 billion, while marketing spend climbed 80% to $ 983 million. Not all of this is attributable to programming for HBO / HBO Max, but a lot of the increase can certainly be attributed to the needs of a newbie streamer hungry for content.
WarnerMedia has revealed to investors that the launch of HBO Max in certain European territories will be pushed back to 2022 rather than the third quarter of this year. The service launched in Latin America in June and is off to a good start, Forssell said. The delay in Europe should not be wrongly interpreted as a sign of a slowdown in its international deployment plans. Going global is key to allowing WarnerMedia to recoup the $ 2 billion invested in HBO Max to date.
“Global scale is essential for the SVOD business,” he said. “We’ve already made 80% of the technology investments we need to serve the world, but we’re only present in 39 markets. Global is how you get a return on your investment in technology and programming.
In addition, the first experiences in Latin America have shown Forssell and his team that it is important to have a solid range of wide-ranging local content that is suited to the needs of discrete markets, and that takes time to develop. , regardless of how well the technology works.
“It’s the entertainment industry. It’s tech-based and tech-powered, but the big stories will be what matters, ”he said.
(On the photo: “House of the dragon”)