The strategic choices of David Zaslav, the new boss of HBO Max are becoming clearer… And the value of the subscription seems to be collapsing more and more.< /strong>
When a marriage takes place between two behemoths of entertainment, the parent company generally tries to communicate about the brilliant “children” who may be born from this wonderful union. None of that happened with the merger between HBO Max and Discovery+, two streaming services from conglomerate Warner Media. The merger allowed David Zaslav, the boss of the second platform to take over the reins of the first and his first choices left the whole industry perplexed… We think for example of the cancellation of Batgirl, almost completed feature film which has already cost a whopping 90 million dollars. Zaslav's mysterious strategy begins to take shape.
Jason Kilar, the former boss of HBO Max had come up with a strategy dubbed “Project Popcorn” internally. Overall, it consisted of constantly flooding the platform with content, stuffing subscribers with blockbusters and TV productions of all kinds. With this strategy, all major films released by Warner in 2021 were simultaneously released in theaters and online. Then in 2022, the big films of the group were available on HBO Max, only 45 days after their theatrical release – we think for example of The Batman or the last installment of Fantastic Beasts. All of this, of course, accompanied by content exclusive to the platform.
This method has allowed HBO Max to drastically increase its number of subscribers: 92.1 million subscribers in two years… Not bad for one of the most expensive platforms ($15 per month).
The “Popcorn Project” is therefore over and David Zaslav explained it during the presentation of the group's latest quarterly results:
“This idea of having very expensive films that go directly in streaming, we can no longer defend it economically, he underlined, we are carrying out a strategic volteface.”
Then followed a speech on the defense of exhibitors and cinemas… Concretely, what can we expect? So far, nothing very concrete. This is the fate of the movie Elvis which caught the ear of many observers.
By following Project Popcorn's strategy, the film should have been available on the platform from the first week of release. august. Eventually, it won't join the HBO Max catalog until a later (and still unclear) date. It therefore seems that the platform has decided to do it on a case-by-case basis for each of its films, certainly preferring to extend theatrical distribution for big-budget films that have the potential for longevity. We imagine that unlike the first part, Dune 2should not be available simultaneously (or even very soon after) on the American platform.
A strategy that may improve the profitability of some footage, but that depreciates the value of the new offshoot of HBO Max. Once again, Warner opts for an illegible short-term strategy. In Europe, the platform was due to land in 2023. Its big launch has been postponed.