The studio has embraced a digital future. The rest of the industry would do well to pay mind.
Seventeen movies will each arrive in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, the biggest challenge yet to Hollywood’s traditional way of doing business.
Seventeen movies will each arrive in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, the biggest challenge yet to Hollywood’s traditional way of doing business.
Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Wonder Woman 1984—whose release has been delayed multiple times in the face of continued theater closures due to the pandemic—will keep to its new December 25 theater release date. The catch: it will also debut on HBO Max that same day. Now WarnerMedia has announced that it will follow a similar concurrent digital/theater launch plan for all the movies slated for release in 2021, Variety reports. It’s yet another staggering blow to movie theaters still struggling amidst a raging pandemic that shows no sign of slowing down, particularly in the United States.
“After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing 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 CEO Jason Kilar in a statement. “Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.”
Warner Bros.’ 2021 slate of films will be available to HBO Max subscribers for 31 days, after which they will only be playing in theaters. Once the traditional time has elapsed between theater and home release, the films will be available to rent via the usual online platforms (Amazon, iTunes, or Fandango). The current slate includes The Little Things, Judas and 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.
Following last month’s news that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released simultaneously on HBO Max and in U.S. theaters, Warner Bros. and its parent company WarnerMedia just announced that they will follow the same strategy with every theatrical release that they’ve got planned for 2021.
That includes movies like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat,” “In The Heights,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” “The Suicide Squad,” “Dune,” the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” and “The Matrix 4.” (The WarnerMedia announcement notes that release dates could change, which might move some of these titles out of the scope of today’s announcement.)
These movies will be available on HBO Max for one month, in 4K Ultra HD and HDR, at no additional charge.
Earlier this year, Hollywood studios responded to widespread theatrical by bringing some films straight to streaming while delaying their big releases. The disappointing box office performance of “Tenet” (also from Warner Bros.) prompted additional delays — but as the pandemic stretched on, there was a growing sense that studios couldn’t afford to delay things forever.
For example, Universal had already reached a deal with AMC and other major chains to release movies on premium video on demand just three weeks after they launch in theaters, with the revenue split with theatrical partners.
But WarnerMedia’s announcement seems like an even more dramatic shift — and while it only covers 2021, it could signal potentially long-lasting changes to theaters’ exclusive release window.
This also comes after former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar took over as WarnerMedia’s chief executive in April, a move (followed by multiple rounds of layoffs) that seemed to put streaming front-and-center in the company’s priorities.
In a statement, Kilar said:
After considering all available options and the projected state of moviegoing 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. More importantly, we are planning to bring consumers 17 remarkable movies throughout the year, giving them the choice and the power to decide how they want to enjoy these films. Our content is extremely valuable, unless it’s sitting on a shelf not being seen by anyone. We believe this approach serves our fans, supports exhibitors and filmmakers, and enhances the HBO Max experience, creating value for all.
Every month, subscription streaming services add a new batch of titles to their libraries. Here are our picks for December.
The announcement that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day is the clearest sign that streaming is now central to the film industry’s business model.
Although COVID-19 is surging in the United States and around the world, Warner Bros. still plans to release “Wonder Woman 1984” on Christmas Day — but its plans are are no longer limited to a theatrical release.
Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot both posted tweets last night announcing that in in the United States, the film will be released simultaneously in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max.
“THE TIME HAS COME,” Jenkins wrote. “At some point you have to choose to share any love you have to give over everything else. We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season.”
A press release from HBO Max offers a few more details: The film will debut in theaters internationally on December 16, then launch in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max on December 25. It will be available to the streaming service’s U.S. subscribers for one month at no additional cost.
While the pandemic caused some films to shift from a theatrical release to streaming, the studios have mostly chosen to delay their big blockbusters. The Wonder Woman sequel (which had already moved around the calendar several times as part of normal Hollywood scheduling) was scheduled for a June release when the pandemic started, with Warner Bros. pushing the date back to August, then from August to Christmas.
Last month, the disappointing box office performance of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (which Warner Bros. only released in theaters) prompted studios to delay other tentpoles like “Dune,” “No Time To Die” and “The Batman.” But they may not want be able to delay indefinitely — and in the case of WarnerMedia, this also seems like a smart way to drive subscriptions for HBO Max after a rocky launch.
Disney, meanwhile, decided to release its live action “Mulan” remake on Disney+ for an additional $29.99 (while also supporting a theatrical launch in some markets). It will be releasing Pixar’s “Soul” via streaming on Christmas Day at no additional charge.
After weeks of rumors, a leaked trailer has let the golden lasso out of the bag: Warner Bros. Pictures’ oft-delayed film Wonder Woman 1984 has finally conceded to the pandemic with a massive digital launch plan.
The film’s December 25 launch date had been previously announced after being bumped out of June, then once again out of October. That Christmas launch date remains fixed for theaters around the world—including those in the United States that remain open in the face of rising COVID-19 contraction rates. The news today is that HBO Max, which currently operates exclusively in North America, will additionally serve the film on the same day—without charging existing subscribers any extra fee on top of its $14.99/mo rate.
This plan differs from Disney’s September launch of its live-action Mulan remake, which was restricted to theaters in countries without the paid Disney+ subscription service. In territories with Disney+, on the other hand, subscribers could pay a one-time fee of $30 to access the film for unlimited viewing, or wait until December 4 to access the film as part of the standard Disney+ $7.99/mo service.
Fans eagerly awaiting the debut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max next year were thrilled to hear that a new trailer was coming today to mark the third anniversary of the theatrical cut’s release. They’re probably feeling a teensy bit cheated right now, since what dropped was actually an updated black-and-white version of the teaser trailer from the virtual DC FanDome event in August—although the eagle-eyed viewer will spot a few seconds of new footage. But at least Snyder also provided a virtual breakdown of said trailer during a livestreaming event on Vero.
The August trailer had been removed from YouTube earlier this month because of contested music rights issues—the trailer was set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Now those issues have been resolved, and Snyder marked the occasion with this latest black-and-white offering, Cohen soundtrack intact. (You can watch the full-color version here.)
Apparently, Snyder’s ideal vision for Justice League would be a black-and-white IMAX version. “That, to me, is the most fan-centric, most pure, most Justice League experience, because that’s how I lived with the movie for two years, in black-and-white,” he told The Film Junkee in a recent interview.
Conan O’Brien is making the move to streaming. In June of next year, his nightly talk show “Conan” will be ending its 10-year run on TBS, while he launches a new, weekly variety series on streaming service HBO Max.
“In 1993 Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform,’” O’Brien said in a statement. “I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription.”
The announcement doesn’t mention a launch date or any other details of the new show, but it does position this as an extension of O’Brien’s relationship with WarnerMedia, which owns both HBO Max and TBS. It also says that he will continue to make his “Conan Without Borders” travel specials for the cable network.
O’Brien is no stranger to reinvention. The one-time comedy writer (never forget that he wrote the beloved “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of “The Simpsons”) made the transition to late-night host in the early ’90s, then moved to TBS after a notoriously truncated run as host of “The Tonight Show.”
More recently, he launched the podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” (which is an absolute delight). In fact, O’Brien joined us at this year’s Disrupt conference to discuss the podcast’s success.
When asked whether he planned to continue hosting late night TV, O’Brien’s reply may have hinted at today’s news: “All of this is converging. I think the message that I would have for everybody watching TechCrunch Disrupt right now is that people need to open up their minds a little bit. If I’m making podcasts, it doesn’t prohibit me from also maybe do maybe doing something, it doesn’t have to necessarily be for Turner, it could be for anybody.”
Let’s face it: this is going to a dismal holiday season for film lovers, with most movie theaters shuttered for the foreseeable future and just one major release—Wonder Woman 1984—left standing after studios shifted all their blockbusters to next year. And even Wonder Woman 1984 is likely to end up getting bumped to next year from its currently planned Christmas Day release date unless we can get this raging pandemic in check quickly.
On the bright side, streaming platforms and VOD are doing their best to fill in the gap, and the dearth of major new releases is giving a lot of smaller indie films a better chance to find an audience. Plus, HBO Max just dropped the official trailer for Superintelligence, an action comedy starring Melissa McCarthy—and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone—that will drop Thanksgiving Weekend.
But the decision to skip the usual broad theatrical release in favor of the streaming platform was made last year—before the pandemic hit. That makes this film an intriguing potential harbinger of what the media ecosystem for films might look like in the future, especially for midbudget films. It was a big marquee acquisition for the fledgling HBO Max, which officially launched in May.
In August, HBO broke its customers’ access to the HBO Max streaming service by cranking up the settings on its Widevine DRM service—most likely by enabling a Verified Media Path requirement. When Ars reached out to HBO Max at the time, service representatives brushed us off with a boilerplate response:
You may be able to stream HBO Max on Linux platforms, though it is not officially supported for HBO Max at this time. For supported browsers and devices, see HBO Max supported devices or visit the HBO Max Help Center for additional support.
HBO Max representatives did not respond to a request for comment on whether the service had enabled the VMP requirement under Widevine, which is what broke CBS All Access for Linux users in January of this year.
We never did hear anything more from HBO Max, but as reader etarts pointed out to us this week, someone eventually fixed the issue with Widevine. The service is once again handing out licenses to Linux subscribers whose browsers support Widevine encryption. The full, proprietary Google Chrome browser supports Widevine (which is a Google protocol) by default; it can also be enabled relatively easily on Chromium and on Mozilla Firefox.
Every month, subscription streaming services add a new batch of titles to their libraries. Here are our picks for November.
His Dark Materials, the BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy trilogy, received mixed reviews for its first season, although it still warranted an honorable mention in our 2019 year-end TV roundup. The second season debuts next month. HBO dropped the first S2 trailer in July during the virtual San Diego Comic-Con@Home and a second longer one in August. Now BBC has released yet another trailer that includes a short featurette, with cast interviews and some cool glimpses behind the scenes.
(Spoilers for S1 and the Philip Pullman books below.)
As we’ve written previously, the three books in Pullman’s series are The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. They follow the adventures of a 12-year-old girl named Lyra, who lives in a fictional version of Oxford, England, circa the Victorian era. Everyone has a companion daemon in the form of an animal—part of their spirit that resides outside the body—and Lyra’s is named Pantalaimon. Lyra uncovers a sinister plot that sends her on a journey to find her father in hopes of foiling said plot. That journey takes her to different dimensions (the fictional world is a multiverse) and ultimately to her own coming of age.
Atticus, aka “Tic,” walking the old familiar streets. [credit: YouTube/HBO ]
A Black family in 1950s Chicago struggles to reclaim their lost ancestral legacy while warding off monsters and magic spells in HBO’s Lovecraft Country, based on the 2016 dark fantasy/horror novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. Like the novel that inspired it, the series’ pointed juxtaposition of supernatural Lovecraftian horrors against more mundane, but equally horrifying racial inequalities of that era is especially timely in a year that has seen widespread civil rights protests against the brutal killings of Black men (and women) by police officers. And social relevance aside, it also works as pure entertainment.
(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)
Set in the Jim Crow era of the 1950s, Ruff’s book is structured as a series of short stories, although everything is inter-related. The first quarter of the book focuses on Atticus, a black Korean war veteran and big H.P. Lovecraft fan, despite the author’s notorious racism. When his estranged father disappears after encountering a well-dressed white man driving a silver Cadillac, leaving a cryptic message, Atticus sets out on a road trip from Chicago’s South Side to rural Massachusetts. He’s accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia (aka Leti).
AT&T lost 627,000 TV customers in Q3 2020, an improvement over previous quarters as the company continues its attempt to sell its failing DirecTV division.
In earnings results reported today, AT&T said it lost 590,000 “Premium TV” customers, a category that includes DirecTV satellite, U-verse wireline TV, and the online service known as AT&T TV. AT&T also lost 37,000 customers from AT&T TV Now, the streaming service formerly known as DirecTV Now.
The Premium TV loss of 590,000 customers in Q3 is the best result since AT&T lost 544,000 subscribers in Q1 2019. AT&T’s Premium TV losses ranged from 778,000 to 1.16 million customers per quarter from Q2 2019 through Q2 2020. AT&T currently has 17.1 million Premium TV customers, down from over 25 million in early 2017.
AT&T is reportedly moving ahead with its plan to sell DirecTV despite receiving bids that value the satellite division at less than one-third of the price AT&T paid for it.
AT&T bought DirecTV for $49 billion in 2015 and has lost seven million TV subscribers in the last two years. In late August, news broke that AT&T is trying to sell DirecTV to private-equity investors and that a deal could come in at less than $20 billion.
The New York Post yesterday provided an update on the sale process, writing that AT&T is pressing ahead with an auction even though it is “shaping up to be a fire sale.” The sale process is being handled for AT&T by Goldman Sachs.
A pair of androids struggle to raise human children on a hostile planet in Raised by Wolves, the new sci-fi series that just concluded its first season on HBO Max. In this era of bankable franchises, reboots, and adaptations, it was refreshing to see something so original and visionary hit the small screen, and we had high hopes for the series.
That hope was sadly misplaced. Granted, in its earlier episodes, Raised by Wolves is moody, atmospheric, strangely disquieting, and thought-provoking, with gorgeous cinematography. So it’s especially maddening that the show squanders all that considerable promise with a clunky, incoherent finale featuring a hackneyed, ham-fisted, totally unnecessary twist that left us seriously questioning whether we even want to tune in for a second season.
(Spoilers below, but all major reveals about the finale—because WTAF?—are below the gallery and we’ll give a heads up when we get there.)
As a producer and director of a new HBO Max series, the maker of “Blade Runner” and “Alien” indulges his taste for eerie robots and high-minded sci-fi.
Compared to the initial trailer that landed recently, this one fleshes the world out a bit more by introducing additional characters and more thoroughly explaining the central conflict in the series.
Here’s a quick recap of what we know about the series so far: it principally stars a female, possibly part-biological android named Mother, who has left behind some catastrophe on humanity’s home planet to travel to a new one. There, she raises a group of children who will be the seed for a new human civilization that avoids the mistakes that purportedly destroyed civilization as we know it. But in the course of raising them, it becomes clear that the young humans are susceptible to the same tendencies that Mother claims were humanity’s undoing.
Fans who have been clamoring to see Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of the disappointing 2017 film, Justice League, will finally get their wish, as HBO Max released a two-minute trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League during the virtual DC Fandome event. The trailer actually leaked online before the panel, but was quickly pulled until the official release.
(Some spoilers for the 2017 Justice League below.)
The original Justice League was the third film in a trilogy that included Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). It brought together Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). They are on a mission to save the world from arch-villain Steppenwolf, a New God in search of three “Mother Boxes” that will enable him to terraform the Earth into something more hospitable to him and his army of Parademons.
Lots of people missed last year’s debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a “found family” of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service. Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series’ potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.
(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)
As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can’t really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a “negative energy entity” inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)
Androids struggle to raise human children on a mysterious planet in the first trailer for Raised by Wolves, a new sci-fi series coming to HBO Max, courtesy of none other than Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, etc., etc.). Created by Aaron Guzikowski, who also penned the script for the 2013 thriller Prisoners, the ten-episode series was initially a straight-to-series order for TNT, but moved to HBO Max last October. Scott even directed the first two episodes, making this his US TV directorial debut.
“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions,” Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. “What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”
The tagline for the series gives little away: “Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.” But the basic premise revealed during development is that the story involves two androids serving as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) figures on a strange virgin planet. They are programmed to raise human children to rebuild the population. However, the people of the fledgling colony develop stark religious differences, and “the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.”
In “An American Pickle,” the actor contemplates how our forebears would view us, something he’s thought about a lot during the pandemic.
The Muppets were made of, by and for TV. Two new shows, “Muppets Now” on Disney+ and “The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo” on HBO Max, reimagine the media-savvy furry friends for a new age.
This quietly brilliant coming-of-age series from 2019 has new resonance with its arrival to streaming in 2020.
Meditation apps have been a nice tech-centric respite for many, as the world continues to fall apart at the seams. HBO Max is hoping to build on that success with the launch of a new show based on the wildly popular Calm app. It is, thankfully, neither drama nor workplace comedy (HBO’s already done the startup thing), but rather a different format more inline with what you’ll get on the app.
Formatted as a season of 10 half-hour episodes, the show is loosely built around Calm’s sleep Stories series, with visuals from the producers of National Geographic’s One Strange Rock documentary series. That serves as the backdrop to “scientifically-engineered narratives” read by a pretty solid cast of Hollywood A-Listers, including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy and Keanu Reeves.
“Calm started life as a meditation app but the brand has evolved far beyond that,” Calm co-founder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith said in a release. “We are delighted to bring the magic behind our audio Sleep Stories to the screen for the first time. These experiences are visual Valium and will help people relax and unwind during these stressful times.”
The concept isn’t dissimilar from Netflix’s fireplace videos or Adult Swim’s Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep, in that they extend the standard streaming service play of repurposing television series and films for the format. The on-demand nature of services like HBO Max make it possible to offer up more specialty content to, say, fall asleep to. Quibi, too, has its own meditation program, The Daily Chill. I, for one, have been falling asleep to Netflix much more often than I’d care to admit, these days.
If you’re new to the riches of the Japanese animation studio, our guide can help you sort through its wonderfully deep catalog.
HBO Max, the WarnerMedia-owned streaming service that launched in May, announced today that it has made a series commitment to an untitled TV show tied to the movie “The Batman” (currently scheduled for release in 2021).
The show will be set in the Gotham City police department, with a creative team that includes Matt Reeves, the movie’s co-writer and director, along with “Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter.
This sounds like familiar territory — the police department of a city overrun by colorful criminals was probably perhaps best explored in the “Gotham Central” comics series (written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and drawn by Michael Lark), but it was also the focus of the recent (bad) Fox TV show “Gotham.”
However, the announcement from HBO Max emphasized that this will be an extension of the feature film, “ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms.” It’s an approach that the streamer is also taking with “Dune: The Sisterhood,” a series that ties into the upcoming “Dune” movie.
“This is an amazing opportunity, not only to expand the vision of the world I am creating in the film, but to explore it in the kind of depth and detail that only a longform format can afford — and getting to work with the incredibly talented Terence Winter, who has written so insightfully and powerfully about worlds of crime and corruption, is an absolute dream,” Reeves said in a statement.
It also remains to be seen whether the show is influenced in any way by the ongoing protests for racial justice. It might seem absurd to connect real-world political issues with a comic book TV show, but the protests have led to a Hollywood reckoning with how movies and television have glorified the police — for example, Andy Samberg recently said the writers and cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are trying to rethink the show to make something “that we all feel morally okay about.”
The company didn’t set out to build a big library of Black programming, but now it’s the envy of its rivals.
Back in simpler times, there were only two HBO streaming apps — Go for cable subscribers, and Now for viewers who wanted a standalone streaming subscription. Then the company launched launched HBO Max last month.
Content-wise, Max encompasses the HBO library plus a bunch of additional movies and shows. Meanwhile, from an app perspective, it was released as an update to HBO Now … except on Fire TV and Roku, where WarnerMedia has yet to reach a deal to offer Max, so the app is still HBO Now.
Just typing that out made me feel tired. And after all that, here’s what WarnerMedia announced today:
Now that HBO Max has launched and is widely distributed, we can implement some significant changes to our app offering in the U.S. As part of that plan, we will be sunsetting our HBO GO service in the U.S. We intend to remove the HBO GO app from primary platforms as of July 31, 2020. Most customers who have traditionally used HBO GO to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max, which offers access to all of HBO together with so much more. Additionally, the HBO NOW app and desktop experience will be rebranded to HBO. Existing HBO NOW subscribers will have access to HBO through the rebranded HBO app on platforms where it remains available and through play.hbo.com. HBO Max provides not only the robust offering of HBO but also a vast WarnerMedia library and acquired content and originals through a modern product.
While the changes are tedious to explain, it sounds like they will actually result in a (somewhat) simpler set of consumer choices. Basically:
- The HBO Max app is going to be the primary HBO app going forward.
- If you subscribe to HBO through one of the supported cable providers (including AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon Fios and YouTube TV), you should be able to use the HBO Max app at no additional cost.
- If you’re trying to watch HBO on a device that doesn’t yet support HBO Max — namely, Fire TV or Roku — then you’re going to be using an app that doesn’t have all the extra content. That app has the no-frills name HBO.
Chances are you missed Doom Patrol when it debuted last year, due to the fact that it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming platform. (It’s based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name.) That’s a shame, because it proved to be a delightfully bonkers show about a “found family” of superhero misfits. For its forthcoming second season, the show will air both on DC Universe and HBO Max, hopefully expanding its audience. Judging by the official trailer, we’re in for another crazy ride.
(Some S1 spoilers below.)
Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can’t really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a “negative energy entity” inside him, and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)
One of the selling points for HBO Max, the recently-launched streaming service from WarnerMedia, is the inclusion of classic films from Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection. But choosing which old movies to include, and how to present them, can get thorny.
Case in point: “Gone with the Wind” is generally considered one of the greatest and most popular movies of all time — but it also presents a cheery version of slavery and glorifies the antebellum south.
In the context of the recent protests following the death of George Floyd, along with the broader discussions about racial justice, “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times calling on HBO Max to remove the film.
Ridley acknowledged that “movies are often snapshots of moments in history” and that “even the most well-intentioned films can fall short in how they represent marginalized communities.” However, he suggested that “‘Gone with the Wind’ is “its own unique problem … It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
HBO Max has now responded by removing the film and releasing a statement acknowledging that its “racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”
At the same time, the statement suggests that the removal is only temporary: “These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
HBO Max isn’t the first streaming service to face these questions. Disney+ (which probably needs to take a more hands-on approach, given its focus on family and children’s programming) includes disclaimers about “outdated cultural depictions” on titles like “Dumbo,” while former CEO Bob Iger has also said the notoriously racist “Song of the South” is “not appropriate in today’s world” and will never been included on the service.
The streaming service said it planned to eventually bring the 1939 film back “with a discussion of its historical context.”
“On the Record” implicitly addresses longstanding criticism that black women have been overlooked in the conversation about sexual assault and power, but the film could have gone further.
AT&T’s new HBO Max streaming service is exempt from the carrier’s mobile data caps, even though competing services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ count against the monthly data limits. This news was reported today in an article by The Verge, which said that AT&T “confirmed to The Verge that HBO Max will be excused from the company’s traditional data caps and the soft data caps on unlimited plans.”
The traditional data caps limit customers to a certain amount of data each month before they have to pay overage fees or face extreme slowdowns for the rest of the month. “Soft data caps on unlimited plans” apparently is a reference to the 22GB or 50GB thresholds, after which unlimited-data users may be prioritized below other users when connecting to a congested cell tower.
“According to an AT&T executive familiar with the matter, HBO Max is using AT&T’s ‘sponsored data’ system, which technically allows any company to pay to excuse its services from data caps,” The Verge wrote. “But since AT&T owns HBO Max, it’s just paying itself: the data fee shows up on the HBO Max books as an expense and on the AT&T Mobility books as revenue. For AT&T as a whole, it zeroes out. Compare that to a competitor like Netflix, which could theoretically pay AT&T for sponsored data, but it would be a pure cost.”
Major companies are often wary of conflict, especially in a polarized time. But some are now taking a stand on racial injustice and police violence.
A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” captures the look and feel of the originals.
“The Lovebirds” was originally slated for a theatrical release, but with movie theaters closed, Paramount decided to release the film through Netflix instead.
But even without a global pandemic, a Netflix release was probably the right call. As we discuss latest episode of the Original Content podcast, this doesn’t feel like a movie that would have done well in theaters.
It is, to be clear, a funny and watchable, thanks in large part to the charming performances of Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae as a couple who have hit a rough patch in their relationship — right as they’re also embroiled in a murder mystery. (There seems to be a whole subgenre of movies about couples who are inadvertantly caught up in crime stuff.)
The plot, on the other hand, is pretty thin, and it becomes even more perfunctory as the movie tries to wrap everything up at the end. That’s particularly disappointing since “The Lovebirds” reunites Nanjiani with his “Big Sick” director Michael Showalter — do not expect it to be as good as “The Big Sick,” or even close.
Before our review, we also discuss the launch of WarnerMedia’s HBO-and-more streaming service HBO Max.
You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:25 HBO Max discussion
10:51 “The Lovebirds” review
23:41 “The Lovebirds” spoiler discussion
How did yesterday’s launch of HBO Max go? We don’t have official numbers from WarnerMedia, but app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower says HBO Max was downloaded by nearly 87,000 new users across Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
That number might seem pretty low compared to other streaming launches — like the 4 million first-day installs for Disney+, or even the 300,000 installs for Quibi.
But keep in mind that HBO Max isn’t an entirely new service, either from a content perspective (it bundles HBO’s library with a wide range of other TV shows and movies) or from an app perspective, since it was released as an update for the existing HBO Now streaming app.
Sensor Tower acknowledged that these numbers do not include people who simply updated their old HBO app, but it offered another way to look at yesterday’s performance: Previously, HBO Now was averaging 16,000 new installs every day, so that’s 71,000 more downloads than normal.
It’s also worth noting that as I write this on Thursday afternoon, HBO Max is currently number two among “free” apps the App Store, behind Zoom but ahead of YouTube, Netflix, TikTok and Disney+.
Sensor Tower estimated that HBO Now and Max have been downloaded by 33 million people since launching in April 2015, compared to 260 million for Netflix, 120 million for Hulu (both Netflix and Hulu were measured starting in January 2014) and 50 million for Disney+.
Gone are the days of not having enough time to catch up on all of those movies and TV shows you’ve been meaning to get around to. For the foreseeable future, at least, many of us have nowhere to go and nothing but time on our hands.
We’ve already offered a few suggestions for ways to spend your newfound downtime, but there’s a more pragmatic question at hand. With this week’s arrival of HBO Max, an overcrowded streaming market becomes even more competitive, particularly here in the United States. Gone are the days of Netflix’s streaming supremacy (at least from a content perspective). There’s a streaming service for virtually every need and nearly every one is best at something (with the possible exception of Apple TV+, with its fairly sparse selection, and whatever is going on with Quibi).
In a perfect world, we would all be able to subscribe to every service and never have to leave the house again. But those $5-$15/month fees add up pretty quickly when you’re not looking. For most of us, choosing the right service or service requires a bit of strategic spending. As such, we’re going to make life a bit easier on you and your wallet by designating the top services across 10 key categories.
Again, this is a U.S.-focused list, since that’s where we’re based. But many of these services are available outside the States, or will be in the next year or two.
The best service for … Prestige TV
Winner: HBO Max
The debate about the best TV show of all time always seems to wind up on HBO. The premium cable network has transformed expectations around what television can and should do, with shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” regularly cited at the top of the list of all-time greats. And then there’s “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones,” newcomers like “Succession” and top-tier comedy like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Eastbound and Down” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” Not every series has been a slam-dunk, but as far as prestige episodic television is concerned, you’re not going to do any better than HBO. (B.H.)
The best service for … Blockbusters
Disney has dominated the theatrical box office for the past decade, thanks to its acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm/Star Wars — not to mention the continued popularity of its animated films and live-action remakes. Disney+ is where you can catch up with almost all those big-budget hits, and it will be the streaming home for future Marvel blockbusters. (A.H.)
The best service for … Classics
Winner: Criterion Channel/HBO Max
While Criterion’s reputation can seem forbiddingly arty (see below) — of course, some art films are stone cold movie classics — the service also offers plenty of classic Hollywood titles, like a recent retrospective showcasing Columbia noir. If you’re a kaiju fan, it also has nearly every old-schoool Godzilla movie in its library. That said, it isn’t the only place you can find classic titles. HBO Max, in particular, is the streaming home to Turner Classic Movies, with some of the best films of all time, including “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” It also has a deal to offer some Criterion titles, too. (A.H.)
The best service for … Documentaries
Winner: HBO Max/CuriosityStream
As with its drama and comedy series, there’s really no one out there who can touch HBO’s documentary output. The network has consistently racked up Emmy wins since the late ’90s. It’s had some added competition from Netflix in recent years, but HBO continues to deliver, including last year’s heart-wrenching ‘Leaving Neverland.’ If you like your documentaries served with a side of more documentaries, however, there’s always CuriosityStream. $20/year will get you a boatload of original docs, broken down by category. (B.H.)
The best service for … Kids
All the big streaming services have a selection of movies and shows for kids, but it’s hard to beat the titles in Disney’s library — all their animated classics, plus Pixar, plus Disney Channel hits like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical.” HBO Max is a strong runner-up with Sesame Street and the full Studio Ghibli library, but if your kid wants to sing along to “Frozen” over and over again, this is where they can do it. (A.H.)
The best service for … Indies
Winner: Hulu/Criterion Channel
Most streaming services (save for Apple TV+ and Disney+) have a pretty sizable selection of indies. The quality of the films varies greatly from service to service and film to film, but nearly all of them have some hidden gems for when you’re looking to spend a bit of time outside of the studio system. As far as the mainstream ones go, I was surprised to discover during this quarantine that Hulu has the best selections of the bunch, courtesy of deals with top notch indie distributors. If you want a straight shot of the stuff, however, the Criterion Channel is your best bet — and the supplementary content is unmatched by other services. (B.H.)
The best service for … Free stuff
To be honest, I had no idea Tubi existed until recently. I was searching for a Korean movie about a baseball playing gorilla (it’s real, seriously), and landed on the site, where it was streaming for free with ad breaks. You would probably end up banging your head against the wall if you relied on Tubi as your sole streaming service, but its selection is surprisingly solid. There are genuinely good films in there, in amongst the dregs. There are also plenty of dregs there, if that’s your thing. Also check out Walmart’s Vudu. In addition to your standard rentals, the service also has a decent selection of free films. (B.H.)
The best service for … Star Trek
Winner: CBS All Access
It might seem silly to build an entire streaming service around a single entertainment franchise, but a) Have you met Star Trek fans? And b) That was clearly the strategy behind CBS All Access, which has already released two Trek spinoffs, “Discovery” and “Picard.” Although the newly remerged ViacomCBS seems to have broader streaming plans, Star Trek still seems like a centerpiece of that strategy, with a whole bunch of new Trek content being developed under the supervision of Alex Kurtzman. (That said, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are sufficient if you just want to rewatch The Original Series or The Next Generation.) (A.H.)
The best service for … Arthouse
Winner: Criterion Channel
Been missing trips to the local arthouse theater? With places like the Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the Moving Image and Angelika temporarily shut down here in New York, I’ve been finding some respite in the Criterion Collection’s truly excellent curated selection of films. While it’s true that sometimes the best thing for the pandemic is a little mindless movie watching, if you want to take in some culture without leaving the house, Criterion’s got you covered. (B.H.)
The best service for … a lot of everything
You may be wondering why we’ve barely mentioned the streaming world’s biggest player. That’s because Netflix isn’t actually the best in any one category — at least in our view. Instead, it’s pretty good in a whole bunch of categories, whether that’s older TV shows, classic films, original series like “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” reality hits like “Tiger King” and original movies like “The Irishman.” So if you want a single service that scratches a whole bunch of different itches, Netflix is still your best bet. (A.H.)
This documentary about allegations against the music mogul Russell Simmons generated controversy at Sundance when Oprah Winfrey pulled out as an executive producer.
Like it or not, another subscription streaming service has entered the chat.
This one—HBO Max—debuts across the United States on Wednesday, and it comes from the combined AT&T-Time Warner media empire. After taking shape in 2018, the new “WarnerMedia” cluster of film and TV content has since put together a streaming library of exclusive content—particularly by yoinking content away from Netflix and other partners, in apparent defiance of AT&T’s antitrust pledge to US Congress.
WarnerMedia didn’t make the service available to Ars Technica ahead of the launch, so I jumped into the fray by claiming a free seven-day trial on launch day and picked through its first day’s content and interface. I did so to answer the following question: has WarnerMedia pulled off a service worthy of a $15/month fee?
It sounds like this isn’t just a technical issue that will be fixed imminently. WarnerMedia’s vice president of communications Chris Willard told USA Today that “there is no deal in place” to bring the service to those platforms.
In a statement sent out this afternoon, Amazon suggested that the disagreement revolves around bringing HBO Max to Prime Video Channels, and around HBO’s somewhat confusing distribution strategy. (For those of you who haven’t been following along: The HBO Now app is being updated as HBO Max, which includes HBO, plus a bunch of other content. At the same time, HBO will continue to operate as a standalone brand.)
The company said that by not making Max available through Prime Video Channels, WarnerMedia’s parent company AT&T “is choosing to deny those loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog.”
Here’s Amazon’s full statement:
With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog. We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming through the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us.
Meanwhile, a statement from Roku also pointed to unresolved issues:
As the No. 1 streaming platform in the U.S. we believe that HBO Max would benefit greatly from the scale and content marketing capabilities available with distribution on our platform. We are focused on mutually positive distribution agreements with all new OTT services that will deliver a quality user experience to viewers in the more than 40 million households that choose Roku to access their favorite programs and discover new content. Unfortunately we haven’t reached agreement yet with HBOMax. While not on our platform today, we look forward to helping HBOMax in the future successfully scale their streaming business.
WarnerMedia unveils its new streaming service, Donald Trump is mad at Twitter and GE Lighting has a new owner.
Here’s your Daily Crunch for May 27, 2020.
At $14.99 per month, the service — initially available to subscribers in the United States — is more expensive than competing offerings like Netflix and Disney+. But from another angle, it’s still a pretty sweet deal, since you’re getting HBO, plus a whole bunch of extra content, for the exact same price as an HBO subscription.
Subscribers to HBO’s standalone streaming service HBO Now should be able to update their app to HBO Max today. The app is currently available for a range of devices including Android phones and tablets, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromebooks, Chromecasts, iPhones, iPads, PlayStation 4, Samsung TV and Xbox One — but not yet for Roku or Fire TV.
After Twitter added a fact-checking warning label to the president’s misleading tweet about mail-in ballots, Donald Trump took to the platform to denounce it. In what may be his strongest words yet against a service that has largely given him free rein, he tweeted, “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”
The division has existed as part of General Electric since 1911, with its origins reaching back even further to Thomas Edison’s work in the space. Today the GE Lighting portfolio still largely revolves around bulbs, but it’s also the home to C by GE, a series of smart home products.
Hashtags such as BanTikTok, DeleteTikTok and BlockTikTok have trended on Twitter in India in the past three weeks after users unearthed recent videos that appeared to promote domestic violence, animal cruelty, racism, child abuse and objectification of women.
For startups, taking funding from corporate venture capitalists can come with many benefits, including new opportunities for marketing, partnerships and sales channels. Still, no founder should consider a corporate investor “just another VC.” CVCs come with their own set of priorities, strategic objectives and rules. (Extra Crunch membership required.)
The company has been on the offensive in recent weeks when it comes to how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon’s offered all sorts of blog posts, public statements and made the subject a centerpiece of its recent shareholder letter and earnings report. It also went ahead and uploaded a suggested news segment to BusinessWire, complete with warehouse footage and a script for news anchors.
YouTube Kids is meant to give children a safer alternative to YouTube, where even Restricted Mode can let through violent content and other things parents and caretakers don’t want kids to see.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.
At $14.99 per month, the service — initially available to subscribers in the United States — is more expensive than competing offerings like Netflix and Disney+. But from another angle, it’s still a pretty sweet deal, since you’re getting HBO, plus a whole bunch of extra content, for the exact same price as an HBO subscription. (WarnerMedia couldn’t go lower than $15 per month without undercutting HBO pricing and violating its agreements with cable providers.)
So if it’s the same price as HBO and includes most of the same content, why launch a new service at all? As executives at WarnerMedia and its corporate parent AT&T have made clear, they’re hoping compete with players like Netflix. That means building a broader audience than HBO — though they’re also trying to leverage HBO’s reputation for prestige TV and its early success with streaming — and expanding globally. It will also probably involve introducing cheaper, ad-supported plans in the future.
The big question is whether WarnerMedia has successfully translated these corporate imperatives into a compelling offering for consumers. There’s certainly a rich library of content — WarnerMedia says HBO Max is launching with 10,000 hours of movies and TV, including existing shows like “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” the new version of “Doctor Who,” “Rick and Morty,” “The Boondocks,” “The Bachelor,” “Sesame Street,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Batwoman,” “Nancy Drew,” “Katy Keene,” “Doom Patrol,” “The O.C.,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”
The lineup includes newer movies like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “A Star is Born,” “Aquaman” and “Joker,” as well as classics like “Casablanca,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Matrix,” “The Goonies,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Citizen Kane,” and “Gremlins.” HBO Max will also offer titles from the Criterion Collection and the full library of Studio Ghibli films.
And if you’re a superhero fan, it’s got every DC film from the last decade, including “Wonder Woman,” “Justice League” (plus director Zack Snyder’s cut of the film, scheduled for release next year) and every Batman and Superman movie from the last 40 years.
When it comes to original content, things get a little bit sparser, particularly when you distinguish between HBO originals and HBO Max originals (though regular subscribers may not care about the difference). On the Max side, originals available at launch include a kids reality TV series called “Craftopia,” a new set of “Looney Tunes” cartoons, “The Not Too Late Show With Elmo,” another reality show called “Legendary,” a romantic comedy anthology series starring Anna Kendrick called “Love Life” and a music industry documentary called “On the Record.”
There’s more original programming scheduled for later this year, including a “Friends” reunion special (they’re waiting on a time when it’s safe to shoot in-person), new seasons of “Doom Patrol” and “Search Party,” and “Raised by Wolves,” a new science fiction series executive produced and directed by Ridley Scott.
Of course,this launch is happening as the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for many streaming services. Viewership and subscriptions are up (at least for services designed to be watched in the living room)— no surprise, with movie theaters closed, people stuck at home and professional sports on hold — to the point that many streamers have had to reduce their quality in some regions.
At the same time, the pandemic has largely shut down film and TV production around the world, with no clear date for when it can resume. That means the release date for many HBO Max originals — not just the “Friends” reunion but also new “Adventure Time” specials, reboots of “Gossip Girl” and “Grease,” a “Dune” series spinning off from the big-screen adaptation due out later this year, a new “Green Lantern” series and more — remain uncertain.
So how do you get the app? Subscribers to HBO’s standalone streaming service HBO Now should be able to update their app to HBO Max today. The app is currently available for a range of devices including Android phones and tablets, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromebooks, Chromecasts, iPhones, iPads, PlayStation 4, Samsung TV and Xbox One — but not yet for Roku of Fire TV.
WarnerMedia says the service should also be available to HBO subscribers through partners like AT&T, Cox, DirecTV, Hulu, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon Fios and YouTube TV at no additional cost — there’s a whole section on the HBO Max website about how to sign up.
And if you aren’t already a subscriber, you can sign up for a free seven-day rial on the HBO Max website.
WarnerMedia announced today that director Zack Snyder’s version of “Justice League” will be released on HBO Max in 2021.
Snyder is the only credited director on the 2017 superhero film, but he left the film during post-production, after his daughter’s suicide, with “Avengers” director Joss Whedon stepping in to write and shoot new material.
The resulting film received mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office, leading to corporate shakeups at DC Entertainment and pushing the studio to focus on standalone films, rather than big crossovers.
At the same time, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has become a popular hashtag on social media, with many of the movie’s stars joining in, so WarnerMedia is finally responding. It’s also probably happy to find a fresh source of already filmed content for HBO Max while COVID-19 has forced a pause on film and TV production. (The HBO-and-more streaming service launches next week.)
It’s not clear what form the release will take — according to The Hollywood Reporter, it might be a single film of nearly four hours, or it might be broken up into six chapters. And apparently the estimated cost is somewhere between $20 and $30 million.
“I want to thank HBO Max and Warner Brothers for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to be realized,” Snyder said in a statement. “Also a special thank you to all of those involved in the SnyderCut movement for making this a reality.”
Personally, I’ve been a bit skeptical of the social media uproar, partly because I liked the existing version of “Justice League” just fine, despite its obvious flaws; partly because Snyder’s previous film “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was almost unwatchably bad; and partly because it’s become tediously predictable for indignant fans to demand a new version of a movie or TV show they didn’t like.
Still, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for a director who just wants present his vision, particularly when the work was derailed by tragedy. And I can’t deny that I’m curious. So bring on the Snyder Cut.
AT&T gave a first look into how the pay TV business is faring amid the coronavirus pandemic…and it’s not great. The company reported today as a part of its Q1 2020 earnings that its traditional pay TV services, including DIRECTV and its newer streaming option AT&T TV, saw a combined net loss of 897,000 subscribers in the quarter. Meanwhile, its over-the-top streaming service, AT&T TV Now, also lost 138,000 subscribers, following a number of price hikes.
The company’s newer pay TV service, AT&T TV, only just became available nationwide in March. But despite its “streaming” nature — it ships with an Android TV-powered box to deliver TV over the internet — consumers may have already caught on to the fact that it’s still just the worst of pay TV wrapped up in a new delivery mechanism.
The streaming service is expensive compared with today’s over-the-top and video-on-demand options. It’s also laden with fees for things like activation, early termination and additional set-top boxes. And its bundle with AT&T Internet offers each service for $39.99/month for the first 12 months, but ties subscribers into 2-year contracts where prices climb in the second year.
AT&T’s Q1 TV subscriber numbers indicate how quickly the pay TV market is imploding. And perhaps it will decline even more rapidly now that people no longer want to risk coronavirus exposure by having service techs install equipment in their homes. While AT&T TV’s DIY installation may help in that area, it’s unclear if the new service will ever broadly appeal to consumers in the streaming era.
AT&T ended the quarter with 18.6 million pay TV subscribers, down from 19.5 million in Q4 when it lost 945,000 subscribers.
This all puts much more pressure on WarnerMedia to deliver with its May 27th launch of HBO Max. The new direct-to-consumer streaming service promises all of HBO, plus original content, and a library of movies, classic TV and film, fan favorites, and more. But at only $14.99 per month, it won’t be able to replace the lost revenue from high-priced pay TV subscriptions — only offset it.
AT&T also today admitted how the coronavirus outbreak has forced it to rethink its theatrical model.
Just yesterday, WarnerMedia announced the new kids movie “Scoob!” would skip theaters and head straight into homes, where it will be offered at either a $19.99 rental or $24.99 digital purchase. It will later have its “exclusive streaming premiere” on HBO Max.
“We’re rethinking our theatrical model and looking for ways to accelerate efforts that are consistent with the rapid changes in consumer behavior from the pandemic,” said WarnerMedia CEO and AT&T COO John Stankey, as reported by The Wrap.
“When theaters are closed, it’s hard to generate revenue,” he said. “And I don’t expect that’s going to be a snapback. I think that’s going to be something we’re going to have to watch the formation of consumer confidence, not just about going to movies, just in general about being back out in public and understanding what’s occurring there,” Stankey noted.
Overall, AT&T missed on both revenue and earnings in Q1, largely citing impacts from the coronavirus outbreak which reduced earnings by 5 cents per share ($433 million). Total revenue in the quarter was $42.8 billion, short of Wall St. estimates of $44.2 billion. Adjusted EPS was 84 cents per share, versus an expected 85 cents.
A $600 million decline in revenue was attributed to lost ad sales, specifically those that were expected from now-postponed live sports events like March Madness, as well as lower wireless equipment sales.
AT&T’s WarnerMedia division — which includes HBO and Turner broadcast networks in addition to Warner Bros. theatrical releases — was heavily impacted by the pandemic, as well, reporting $7.4 billion in revenue, down from $8.4 billion a year earlier.
“The COVID pandemic had a 5 cents per share impact on our first quarter. Without it, the quarter was about what we expected — strong wireless numbers that covered the HBO Max investment, and produced stable EBITDA and EBITDA margins,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We have a strong cash position, a strong balance sheet, and our core businesses are solid and continue to generate good free cash flow — even in today’s environment. In light of the pandemic’s economic impact, we’ve already adjusted our capital allocation plans and suspended all share retirements,” he added.
The company said it will continue investing in 5G and broadband, two of its only bright spots in the quarter, in addition to investments in HBO Max.
AT&T withdrew its financial guidance due to the “lack of visibility related to COVID-19 pandemic and recovery,” it said.