For almost fifty years, HBO has succeeded as one of the most popular subscription television services, a premium channel whose extra cost meant the viewer didn’t have to watch commercials. Earlier this year, HBO Max launched with HBO’s catalog, as well as movies and television programs from other networks like Comedy Central, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies, all streaming without commercials. But the days of commercial-free HBO watching might soon be over, as apparently, HBO Max might soon be getting ads.
According to a report from CNBC, former WarnerMedia CEO and current CEO of AT&T John Stankey is pushing hard for ads on the HBO Max streaming service, likely being added in the second half of 2021. Variety also reported similar comments back in September, saying that HBO Max would feature about four minutes of ads for every hour of content streamed. Stankey has apparently stated this goal to current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who was previously the CEO of Hulu.
While most streaming services that include ads – like Crackle, Kanopy, and Peacock – usually offer a paid option that dispenses with the commercials, John Stankey’s goal would seemingly feature ads regardless of your HBO service. This rumor also states that at least at first, it looks as though commercials would be added for shows streamed from other WarnerMedia networks, as well as on HBO Max original series, and on older films. Even though one could watch a movie on the Turner Classic Movies channel without ads, watching the same movie through HBO Max would force the viewer to watch ads.
HBO Max’s future plans for streaming were hidden amongst the bombshell news that HBO Max would be streaming sixteen films next year the same day they debut in theaters. Major releases like In the Heights, The Suicide Squad, and Dune will be available for subscribers, much to the chagrin of many filmmakers, who weren’t told about HBO Max’s plans. While making these films available to stream does seem like a solid way to get subscribers, this new ad policy could be a way to make up for the millions WarnerMedia will likely lose with this business model.
Considering that current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar helped create Hulu, it’s almost surprising HBO Max’s streaming plan isn’t more similar to what that streaming service did. Hulu’s offering of free service with commercials was placed alongside a paid option, which would allow audiences to watch as many movies and television shows as they wanted, without ads. Yet it seems strange that even despite the confusing rollout of HBO Max earlier this year, the company will possibly muddy the waters even more, adding commercials to a service notorious for its lack of commercials.
Even though getting to watch new blockbusters films at home seemed like a great idea, it also looks as though it might come with the added cost of having to watch ads in HBO programming. HBO Max is still in its infancy as a streaming service, and with many of their movies planned for release in 2021 likely to lose massive amounts of money for the company, it seems like HBO Max is finding a new way to make up for that loss. But commercials in HBO goes against everything the network once stood for, a strange evolution as the company moves further towards a streaming future.