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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.
HBO Max is the big new streaming service! ALSO: Records broken for Stranger Things 3
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The BIG news of today, if not the month, is the official announcement of HBO Max. This is the name of WarnerMedia’s soon-to-launch streaming service.
This is what we now know:
The service will launch in the US Spring 2020.
There are NO international details announced yet, but these sorts of services need to operate at a global scale. So, it’ll happen - but with parent-company AT&T scrambling to make this a reality, it may not be clearly on the roadmap just yet.
The first phase of the roll-out will be subscription-based, but there will be an ad-supported model as well.
Pricing is still TBA, but expect it to cost more than $15 per month, in line with the current pricing of the existing HBO Now.
10,000 hours of programming is expected on day one. That number will grow.
Classic shows will include titles like Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The library will pull from WarnerMedia’s various assets, so expect shows from not just HBO, but also CNN, TNT, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, TruTV, Cartoon Network, DC Entertainment, and Adult Swim.
There are 7 Original HBO Max series already announced, including TV versions of known properties Dune and Gremlins. Also announced today are four young adult movies to be produced by Greg Berlanti.
The announcement is the first clear idea of the shape that the service will take. Clarity will follow on a lot of the questions surrounding the service. But the big questions I have at the moment:
What happens to the direct-to-consumer service HBO Now? Does that just evolve into HBO Max? Or will they keep the HBO Now service and confuse the marketplace?
Does this kill off small niche services like DC Universe, which will also have its TV and film assets on HBO Max?
Will HBO Max include ALL of HBO’s content? We know that shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver will be there, but will it also include its various live specials, shows like Real Time with Bill Maher, and other oddities that exist on the channel beyond its scripted shows?
I’ll say this: I think HBO Max has some potential and believe that WarnerMedia can really build this into being a must-have streaming platform. A lot of the pre-launch information so far has been muddled, but that sort of thing only impacts upon media nerds and journalists covering it. When introduced to normal people, I think there’s quite a bit going on with the platform that is actually incredibly appealing.
What HBO Max has going for it that Netflix does not: Access to the well-known, beloved film and TV library. On day one there will be A LOT of titles with very high consumer recognition.
These numbers haven’t been third-party verified, but Netflix are claiming it is breaking records.
The thing is…. 18.2 million households are said to have already finished the entire season. That doesn’t really seem to be a lot to me, considering two things:
Stranger Things is the one huge breakout original streaming at Netflix. 40 million sounds great for episode one, but if episode eight is only getting 18.2 million households, it doesn’t seem *that* big. Just a few years ago, generic popular shows like Bones were doing those sorts of numbers without massive advertising campaigns at the scale seen for Stranger Things 3.
Netflix is a global service. 18.2 million households is really healthy for the US-alone, but once you start adding in all of the other markets on the platform, it doesn’t seem crazy big.
Two caveats to my above thoughts:
Bones 18 million+ viewers were counted as single people. Netflix is talking about households/accounts watching an episode - there may be multiple people watching in the one household. This is the problem with numbers provided from the primary source - there isn’t a consistency for comparison.
Viewership at episode eight won’t suddenly stall at 18.2 million. More viewers will eventually reach that eighth episode. It would be interesting to see how many get over the line and how long it takes before that viewership starts to reduce to the point of no longer being interesting.
The ninth season of Travel Man will air in the UK later this year and will serve as the final season for host Richard Ayoade. Joe Lycett will take over as the host of the show for season ten.
Will Veronica Mars continue past the upcoming revival/fourth season? It is billed as a limited series, but if it is popular, expect it back.
However Season 4 and/or the series itself eventually says goodbye for good, Bell does think the show and her character have "an endless life" because their creator has a "commitment to reinventing the story." And she plans to continue to play the character as long as the fans want to keep tuning in.
Fortunately, Bell isn't the only one who wants to see the series continue after this upcoming season. Thomas is on board as well, but he also acknowledged that would depend on what happens in the revival, he shared at the ATX Television Festival in June. "I feel like, by saying that, you assume Veronica survives these eight episodes — so don't get comfortable," he said of a possible fifth season.
There’s a trailer for the new Netflix space drama Another Life starring Katee Sackoff (Battlestar Galactica). I’ve seen the first episode of this and will confirm I’m interested in seeing more. Expect a review when the embargo breaks.
There’s a remake of Look Who’s Talking on the way. Apparently. Not sure anyone asked for this, but it is also not the dumbest thing I’ve heard this week.
I presume Channing Tatum will be the voice of the baby.