AT & T’s latest subscriber numbers make it look as if HBO and its sister service HBO Max are doing quite well – even fantastic! In a regulatory application this week, AT&T revealed that it beat its expected year-end goal of 73.8 million total subscribers between HBO and HBO Max (even after the breakup with Amazon). Not too bad, is it?
But that victory comes after a year of much-anticipated film debuts designed to increase the number of subscribers, and it’s still tens of millions of subscribers behind rivals like Disney Plus and Netflix. And the numbers come with some pretty big reservations. In other words, keep the applause.
First, AT & T’s figures (previously reported by Variety) mixes two separate services – HBO, its cable and HBO Max, its streaming service – and they do not distinguish how many subscribers each service has individually. It told WarnerMedia spokeswoman Jaclyn Mandelbaum The edge that more information “will be broken down into AT & T’s earnings in a few weeks”, but declined to provide figures for each service.
AT & T’s growth also looks less impressive given the high-profile content it has served over the past year, including titles such as Dune, The Matrix Resurrection, and third season of Succession. On top of that, HBO Max added a lower price level and was launched internationally halfway through the year – both of which should have helped boost its subscribers significantly.
Disney Plus added more than twice as many subscribers over a similar period of time. Disney’s streaming service, launched about six months before HBO Max, reported 118.1 million paid subscribers in October 2021, up from 73.7 million about a year earlier. HBO’s record of 73.8 million, on the other hand, has only increased from 61 million subscribers globally by the end of 2020.
Streaming data is virtually impossible to handle at a one-to-one level of comparison for countless reasons, not the least of which is that everyone plays by different rules. It is not to say anything about how piracy, account sharing and features like auto-play can significantly distort a truly accurate picture of subscriber and title success.
Last year should have been HBO Max’s year to win. It will have to find new ways to grow without the help of a long awaited day-and-date board.