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A promise, fulfilled: HBO Max is about to get cheaper for people who don’t mind a few ads.
Starting in June, the streaming service will offer a new $10-per-month subscription tier that gives users just about everything they’d get for $5 more per month. Called “HBO Max With Ads,” the cheaper option brings in commercials — though WarnerMedia’s announcement promises “the lightest ad load in the streaming industry.”
The cheaper package also won’t let viewers access the slate of Warner Bros. movies that premiere on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters throughout 2021. This promises to just be a temporary situation for now, since WB’s same-day release plan sprung out of flagging attendance numbers and full-blown theater closings in the midst of the global pandemic.
Of course, the cheaper option could also spur WarnerMedia to further explore the idea of supplementing a premium Max subscription with same-day theatrical and streaming releases. It may never reach the point of mirroring the approach taken in this most unusual 2021, but competing streamer Disney+ has seen success with its own “Premium Access” releases, which let subscribers pay an extra $30 for whatever movies are included in the program — the next one being Cruella, on May 28.
The pricey upcharge hasn’t hurt Disney, which boasts more than 100 million subscribers just a year and a half into its life. But HBO Max is running well behind that number despite launching six months later. The same-day release plan may have been a product of the pandemic, but make no mistake: Those movies are “free” with your subscription (in contrast to Disney+) because WarnerMedia wants to bring in more paying customers.
The timing of the ad-supported pricing tier is an opportune one for HBO Max, with the long-awaited Friends reunion set to release on May 27. Among the streaming service’s catalog shows, Friends may be the biggest and it’s also never had a proper reunion special until now. These factors, along with the cheaper price of entry, are sure to work in WarnerMedia’s favor as potential subscribers consider the new option in June.
There’s no specific date for the new tier’s launch, but stay tuned. With the clocking ticking down quickly to a new month, more info is assuredly coming soon.
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