Warner Intensifies Europe’s Streaming Wars With HBO Max Launch
(Bloomberg) -- WarnerMedia slashed prices for European customers who sign up to its streaming platform HBO Max, the latest salvo in a fierce online battle for viewers.
The maker of “Game of Thrones” and the “Harry Potter” movies launches the on-demand service in Spain and the Nordic region on Oct. 26. Viewers are being enticed with new seasons of “Sex and the City” and “Succession” and all-new Warner movies including “Dune” within six weeks of their launch in theaters.
A staggered European rollout of HBO Max will test appetite for another big U.S. streaming platform alongside Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. It also piles more pressure on traditional European broadcasters that are battling to stay relevant to younger audiences.
“We’re making our service more affordable at the same time as adding much more content,” said Johannes Larcher, head of international at HBO Max.
HBO Max began in the U.S. in May last year, and it’s taken an aggressive approach to pricing on its recent Latin America launch, starting at between $3 and $6 a month. It costs $15 in the U.S., or $10 for viewers willing to see ads.
Swedish audiences can pay 89 kronor ($10.19), down from 109 kronor for HBO’s current Nordic service, the same monthly price as a basic Netflix package. However, new European customers can also pay for an annual pass for the price of eight months.
HBO Max will add central and Eastern European countries, the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey in 2022. The region’s biggest media markets -- Germany, the U.K., France and Italy -- aren’t included since Warner has distribution deals with local broadcasters such as Comcast Corp.’s Sky and Orange SA, that still have years to run.
There has been speculation that Warner might try to buy itself out of those deals early to focus on its digital consumer push.
“Distribution partners will continue to be an important part of our strategy though the nature of these distribution arrangements may change over time just as we are seeing with other streaming services,” said Priya Dogra, president of WarnerMedia EMEA & Asia.
HBO will need to make a European production push to comply with local content quotas. Its launch offering includes Danish show “Kamikaze,” and Spanish action-adventure series “Garcia!”
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