Sunday, September 27, 2020

HBO Max Gets C+ from Analysts But Could Have Done Better

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HBO Max has been somewhat of a disappointment. Along with titles that were supposed to be available at launch- and it not being available on certain platforms- it’s been a huge miss for the company. Analysts are giving the platform and launch a C+, and that is probably them being generous. It was during a twice-monthly call done by Michael Nathanson and Craig Moffett that they discussed their early reactions to HBO Max.

“It’s hard to imagine that it could have followed the imagined script more closely,” Moffett said, alluding to the initial concerns he and others raised about the strategy of balancing HBO Max with legacy operations. He assigned a grade of C+ to the effort, which he described as “chaotic with the mess of brands that they’ve got.”

The problem is that they got all these people excited with promised titles at launch and then failed to deliver. They have partnerships with companies like Crunchyroll and have a total of 17 titles to pick from. “The Dark Knight,” “13 Going on 30,” “The Matrix,” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” were all promised at launch but are missing from the starting lineup. In fact the only thing that I know is what they said it would be is the film list from Studio Ghibli which many people have been binge watching.

Batman Begins” was advertised in the promotional ads for the platform but none of the Nolan Batman films are currently available. This kind of false advertising can give people who were waiting for the platform a negative outlook on HBO as a company and it could possibly hurt their bottom line.

They assumed that people would own a newer console or have a smart television to be able to download the app. But some people don’t and others who do have a smart TV have televisions that were made earlier than 2016.

The ways you can currently watch the app is if you have iOS and Android or cable providers like Comcast and Charter, or a new Xbox One or PS4. Unfortunately the outlook of HBO was that they would have deals with some platforms now and some later. Jeremy Legg, executive vice president and chief technology officer for HBO was quoted saying “(some) got done now, some of them will get done later.” Which begs the question what was stopping them from coming to terms with all platforms before launch?

They failed to strike a deal with Amazon who has outright said that they are disappointed that they aren’t just adding the new offerings through their other HBO Go app which is available to stream through Amazon Prime’s HBO channel.

“With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog.”

“We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming through the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us.”

Amazon spokesperson via CNET

And while they have a point they are also unwilling to adapt thus far. Which is unfortunate because Amazon Fire televisions make up for 12% of the TVs sold in the US. Roku, the other platform that doesn’t have HBO Max yet makes up for 30%. And the televisions between that could be hooked up to the streaming platform via Fire stick or Roku Box.

Graphic taken from Statistica for Television sales in the United States

Apps for both Roku and Amazon are already built. They just need to come to a deal and push a button and it can go live. So it makes you wonder exactly what kind of terms HBO wants for them to agree to to make this deal work out.

“We look forward to reaching agreements with the few outstanding distribution partners left, including with Amazon and on par with how they provide customers access to Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu on Fire devices.”

HBO spokesperson via CNET

They could have done much better had they reached a deal with all streaming platforms before launching and the fact that they did not is hurting them. Disney+ did so extremely well not only because it is Disney, but because it was available and ready to go from Day 1 with everything they had advertised and on every possible platform. This puts Warner Media at a huge disadvantage because when you make people wait, they learn to find ways to live without you.

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