The streaming war brews up as WarnerMedia announces HBO Max and fires shots at Netflix.
It turns out the rumors were true. WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service will indeed be called HBO Max — a name we’re not entirely happy with as Warner Bros. is more than HBO, but try telling AT&T that. It will feature content from The CW (like previous seasons of Arrow and The Flash and new shows like Batwoman), new films from Arrowverse boss Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon, and what WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer chairman Robert Greenblatt referred to as “the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It will also be the streaming home of Friends when it launches in the spring of 2020.
The beloved sitcom has long been a cornerstone of Netflix’s archive TV business, but its move to HBO Max signals the end of a long-standing relationship between the streaming giant and WarnerMedia; a relationship which predates AT&T’s purchase of Warner Bros. last year. It also means the lucrative deals keeping several CW superhero shoes afloat may also be in jeopardy as the network’s content become part of HBO Max’s lineup.
The hint of doom and gloom here is standard for any format war. It occurred at the dawn of the home video age in the early 1980s and happened again during the brief conflict between Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD — although both formats were soon dwarfed by streaming itself. Here, of course, the battle lines are drawn between viewers and how much access to Friends will be worth to them. Pricing details for HBO Max are not yet available, but it is said to rival HBO GO’s premium price of $14.99. A monthly cost many may find too rich when paired with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime and the upcoming Disney+ and Apple+ services. For the moment, everyone wants a piece of the streaming pie, but when the crumbs settle, some of these services will have to consolidate.
For the moment, though, expect more siloed services to debut as media conglomerates come to believe their libraries can be sold monthly to consumers. As we’ve said before, it is going to be a bumpy few years until these services duke it out among themselves.