HBO Max is an American subscription video on demand streaming service owned by AT&T through the WarnerMedia Direct subsidiary of WarnerMedia, and was launched on May 27, 2020.
While built around content from namesake premium television service HBO, it principally serves as a content hub for WarnerMedia’s various film and television properties, offering a range of original programming and library content from the company as well as additional content licensed through third-party distributors.
According to AT&T, Max had a nominal total of 37.7 million paying subscribers and 17.2 million activated subscribers as of December 31, 2020.
On October 10, 2018, WarnerMedia announced that it would launch an over-the-top streaming service in late 2019, featuring content from its entertainment brands. The original plan for the service called for three tiers with a late 2019 launch. Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and CEO of WarnerMedia’s parent, AT&T indicated in mid-May 2019 that it would use the HBO brand and would tie into cable operators as HBO cable subscribers would have access to the streaming service. A beta was expected in the fourth quarter of 2019 and full launch in first quarter 2020 at the time.
Otter Media was transferred in May 2019 to WarnerMedia Entertainment from Warner Bros. to take over the streaming service as Brad Bentley, executive vice president and general manager of the direct-to-consumer development exited the post after six months. Andy Forssell transferred from being chief operating officer of Otter to replace Bentley as executive vice president and general manager while still reporting to Otter CEO Tony Goncalves, who would lead development.
On July 9, 2019, WarnerMedia announced that the service would be known as HBO Max, and would launch in spring 2020, while Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Greg Berlanti were signed to production deals for the service. (The “Max” moniker is shared with HBO’s sister linear pay television service Cinemax, which has alternately identified by its suffix name since the mid-1980s and used it prominently in its branding from 2008 to 2011.) On October 29, 2019, it was announced that HBO Max would officially launch in May 2020.
On January 8, 2020, AT&T announced that Audience, a channel exclusive to subscribers of AT&T-owned television providers such as DirecTV with some original programming, would be sunset on May 22, eventually transitioning to a barker channel for HBO Max. Warner Bros.
And HBO Max announced the Warner Max film label on February 5, 2020, which would produce eight to ten mid-budget movies per year for the streaming service starting in 2020. On April 20, 2020, WarnerMedia announced HBO Max’s launch date as May 27.
Later that year on October 23, it was announced that WarnerMedia decided to consolidate the Warner Max label into the Warner Bros. Pictures Group after its chairman Toby Emmerich, and his development and production team led by Courtenay Valenti of Warner Bros. Pictures, Richard Brener of New Line and Walter Hamada, who oversees DC-based films, was put to oversee the company’s entire film output, both theatrical and streaming releases.