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HBO Max outlines Europe, Lat Am roll-out

HBO’s streaming services in Europe and Latin America will start to rebrand as HBO Max in the second half of 2021.

Andy Forssell

Andy Forssell, head of HBO Max Global, confirmed the plans during the Web Summit online conference yesterday.

Discussing international expansion, Forssell said WarnerMedia’s aim is to eventually make HBO Max, which launched in the US in May, available in 190 countries.

Various existing direct-to-consumer (D2C) HBO services already exist in Europe and these will be upgraded to HBO Max next year, which equates to doubling the amount of content and adding in many more capabilities, Forssell said.

Forssell and HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys were interviewed by Laurie Segall, founder and CEO of Dot Dot Dot Media, during the conference and they discussed the challenges Covid-19 has presented to the D2C service.

Bloys said that there were a slew of shows for the then-upcoming HBO Max service that were about to start filming or in the middle of shooting when the pandemic struck in March.

The result was that not all planned shows were ready in time. At present, HBO’s shows are back at “almost where they were in March,” Bloys said.

When asked what sets HBO Max apart from Netflix, Hulu and other competitors in the streaming space, Bloys said: “It’s not just the shows, it’s how they are presented. To me, it feels like there’s an actual human offering up the shows, which is fun and pleasing, and has personality.”

Casey Bloys

Forssell added that, for users, it means more human involvement in recommending programming.

“We absolutely present recommendations based on data, but we also have collections that a human put together. So you’ll see us mixing human curation and data quite a bit, and that will accelerate over the next few months. But we think there’s a balance that’s a little bit off with many of the other services that are pure utility.”

HBO has seen 60% more consumption on a per-user basis after launch than in the quarter before the pandemic, according to Forssell. Along with HBO original shows such as Succession, viewers have also taken the opportunity to watch or rewatch shows including The Sopranos and The Wire.

“We saw a lot of people take on the classics that maybe they didn’t have a chance to watch before,” Bloys said. “It speaks to the value of a really deep, rich library.”

It comes as Warner Bros Pictures Group yesterday announced a hybrid distribution model for its 2021 theatrical slate, which will see new movies made available on HBO Max for one month on the same day they premiere in cinemas.

The move will be a huge blow to cinemas, which have struggled as a result of the pandemic due to forced closures and the delayed releases of major 2020 blockbusters, some of which have gone straight to streaming.

Warner Bros’ 2021 slate currently includes titles such as The Little Things, Judas & the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Reminiscence, Malignant, Dune, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard, Cry Macho and Matrix 4.

“After considering all available options and the projected state of movie-going throughout 2021, we came to the conclusion that this was the best way for WarnerMedia’s motion picture business to navigate the next 12 months,” said Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia.

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