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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Everything you need to know about HBO Max. ALSO: Why the Game of Thrones guys left Star Wars.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett who is considering a move to the US for watching-reasons.
This is what you need to know about HBO Max
It launches in the US in May 2020.
The price will be US$14.99 - existing HBO (both regular cable and HBO Now streaming) subscribers will get free access to HBO Max.
They didn’t talk about it much yesterday, but there will be a cheaper, ad-supported version launching too.
There is an international roll-out component involved. As explained at the start of the presentation, this only works for AT&T/WarnerMedia if they’re operating at a global scale. At this stage, only Latin America and parts of Europe will see HBO Max launch. Everywhere else will leverage existing partnerships when it comes to rolling out HBO Max content.
31 HBO Max originals are expected in in 2020, 56 in 2021. That is in addition to the 38 HBO originals being released in 2021. That's 88 originals coming to HBO Max in 2021 - that's a lot of TV.
Expect 1800 films on the service within the first year - a catalogue that will involve new films, beloved favourites, a strong collection of classic older movies, and Studio Ghibli.
The focus is on human curation on the platform. It isn’t going to be powered by algorithm like Netflix is.
There was a slightly confused message on stage in regards to the depth of archive Warner Bros TV content. A rich library of Warners TV material exists, so it would be great to see that all made available. At the start of the presentation, they explained that they would be very focused on a premium TV experience which meant a limited number of shows being made available. (though 88 original shows a year sounds like a lot to me). That gave me the impression that they wouldn’t make much of their library titles available, but Ann Sarnoff came out at the end and suggested that a lot of old classics would be on platform.
Let’s talk content
Disney+ is not a Netflix killer. Amazon Prime isn’t a Netflix killer. Nor is Apple TV+ or Hulu or the upcoming Peacock. But HBO Max… well, it could make a dent.
This is going to be a mainstream-focused general entertainment service that will have some of the world’s best-known IP - brands that people have a very strong affinity for. Are you subscribing to the service that has the Harry Potter films, Batman, Friends, Lord of The Rings movies, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Chernobyl, and Westworld. Or are you wanting the streaming service with The Kissing Booth, Stranger Things, and Ugly Delicious?
Yes, Netflix has some great shows on the platform (I really love Stranger Things, Mindhunter, and The Crown), but outside of Stranger Things, they don’t have many zeitgeist titles.
What will HBO Max offer?
In addition to all of the current HBO content, it’ll also have:
A new Game of Thrones prequel series House of The Dragon.
Dune: The Sisterhood series from director Denis Villeneuve.
Original shows: Tokyo Vice, The Flight Attendant, Love Life, Station Eleven, Made For Love, Crime Farm, Circe, Americanah, Rydell High (a Grease spin-off), Anna K, Red Bird Lane, Rules of Magic, Generation, Starstruck, Raised By Wolves, and many more
A Gremlins animated series
The entire South Park back catalogue
Beloved series like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, The West Wing, Rick & Morty, Pretty Little Liars, Sesame Street, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Doctor Who….
Every DC movie ever
The entire Studio Ghibli library
The entire HBO library, including new high profile HBO shows like Avenue 5 (Armando Ianucci), The Nevers (Joss Whedon), Lovecraft Country (JJ Abrams), Run (Phoebe Waller Bridge), and the Perry Mason revival.
1800 movies (in year one) that includes classic Hollywood films from Turner Classic Movies
How about Australia?
With the Always Be Watching head office in Sydney Australia, the Australian roll-out is interesting to me. Don’t expect HBO Max here initially. I would imagine that the deal with Foxtel will continue for the time being - the wildcards with this are: Foxtel has been cutting costs where possible as there has been some widely reported financial issues with the company and if it opts to not renew the HBO deal (unlikely, but it seems like there is a lot of uncertainty around the Foxtel service, so who can say for sure), that might give way to a local HBO Max launch. The other wildcard being local streamer Stan who would no doubt jump at the chance to be the local HBO content provider.
How did the finance guys react?
The event was being held for financial analysts with the general consensus being that HBO Max looks promising, but they have questions.
UBS analyst John Hodulik, who has a “buy” rating on AT&T, found the presentation compelling, though he still wonders how the company will make good on plans to add 16 million new subscribers by 2025. “It’s unclear if offering more content at the same price will be enough to expand the total HBO base,” he wrote in a note to clients, “especially against the backdrop of new lower price competitors coming to market.”
It appears that the $250 million Netflix deal signed with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss was what led to them leaving Star Wars.
When the pact was announced, Netflix said it was aware of the duo’s commitments, but insiders say they were also wary of waiting as much as four years for them to wrap up work on “Star Wars.” The streaming service wanted Benioff and Weiss to focus on creating exclusive movies and shows for them, particularly when they looked out at a streaming landscape that is growing ever more competitive with the launch of Disney Plus and HBO Max.
Australia’s ABC iView is now going to be made available internationally. From the media release:
For the first time, ABC News Channel can be streamed internationally via an ABC app, delivering Australia’s most trusted news and current affairs content to audiences everywhere, including Q&A, Four Corners, Insiders,Media Watch, Foreign Correspondent and The Drum.
ABC Australia iview features flagship ABC programs, such as Australian Story, BTN and Gardening Australia. The new service also features programs showcasing regional Australia, including the much-loved Back Roads, along with documentary, lifestyle and entertainment content such as Waltzing the Dragon and triple j’s One Night Stand.
The impression I get from the media release is that the app, available on iOS and Android, is focused on ex-pats who want to keep up with Australian news and magazine-style programming. It won’t really be where you go to watch scripted drama or comedy. Regardless, great news for those living overseas.
Always Be Watching Podcast
Dan and Chris are joined by Monster Fest Sydney hype man Simon Foster this week to chat about:
Dolemite Is My Name Jack Ryan s2 War of The Worlds (BBC) Maximum Overdrive
High Fidelity (the TV series) is in the can and is on its way to Hulu. It debuts February 14 2020. No trailer yet, but there are some pics released from the show. Zoe Kravitz stars in the show as ‘Rob’.
Stumptown continues to impress me. 5 episodes have aired in the US - it is still yet to air in Australia. I regularly complain that US broadcast TV shows are so half-hearted and lacking in the depth - which is a shame because there was a point where a lot of broadcast shows were just as good as, sometimes better than, modern cable series.
Indiewire talks up Stumptown and how it stands out amid
The Cobie Smulders-led P.I. drama is somehow — and also quite easily — one of the best new shows of the season; the only series that’s really even challenged it for that position is HBO’s unbeatable “Watchmen.”
The reason this is such a surprise is that “Stumptown” is also a network television procedural, which automatically makes its quality up for debate even more than it would if it were a cable show. For good reason, network television is seen as the land of homogeny, where the same types of stories are told again and again, a point which also lends itself to the procedural genre. (Never mind that seminal series like “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “E.R.,” and “NYPD Blue” were all also procedurals.)