HBO Max mulls adding commercials to classic movies and select new shows
WarnerMedia’s new HBO Max streaming service is considering adding commercials to classic movies and some of its original content.
The company has circulated a marketing survey to consumers, explaining that an ad-supported version of HBO Max could potentially carry two to four minutes of advertising per hour, according to Variety. While ads won’t likely appear in any HBO original shows or new movies, the survey suggests ads may appear alongside content from WarnerMedia’s other TV networks.
This includes original shows from HBO Max, such as “Search Party,” starring Ali Shawkat or Anna Kendrick’s romantic comedy series “Love Life,” or older movies from Turner Classic Movies such as “The Wizard of Oz,” Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: Space Odyssey,” and “Grease.”
A rep from HBO Max declined to comment on the survey, but confirmed that the service will launch an ad-supported version in 2021.
The move comes as HBO Max, which includes original programming, as well as movies and TV shows from HBO, Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network, is amid a leadership transition with former Hulu boss Jason Kilar taking the reins and shaking things up as the streamer struggles for meaningful subscriber growth.
In late July, WarnerMedia said HBO Max and HBO had a total of 36 million subscribers, but it declined to provide a breakdown. That’s in part because the bulk of the 36 million were already HBO subscribers, and they were given access to HBO Max when it launched on May 27, as the company began to merge the two services.
Still, on its face, that’s much less than the subscriber tallies of streaming titan Netflix, which logged 183 million customers in the second quarter, or newcomer Disney+, which launched last fall, and has over 60 million subscribers as of August.
Impeding HBO Max’s growth is the fact that it has yet to come to a distribution agreement with streaming platform giants, Amazon’s Fire TV and Roku. Another issue is HBO Max’s price tag of $14.99 a month, which makes it one of the most expensive services on the market. Disney+ costs $6.99 a month and Netflix costs between $8.99 and $15.99 a month depending on the plan.
The HBO Max’s survey suggested that the $14.99 a month price tag would be lowered for all of its subscribers regardless of whether it opted for the ad-free or ad-supported plan.
Media execs told Variety that enacting such a plan could prove difficult. HBO Max is already locked into “firm contracts” with both the cable and satellite operators that distribute its programming and many of the studios that supply it to keep its shows ad-free for a predetermined “window” of time.
That means advertisers on HBO Max will be barred from adding commercials for the time being with popular series like “Succession,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” or “”Big Little Lies” and will instead have to be content with HBO Max originals like “Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness” or the sitcom “Friends.”
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