During its fourth quarter earnings call, AT&T CEO John Stankey defended the controversial decision to release WarnerMedia’s entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max by citing Wonder Woman 1984‘s success on the streaming platform. According to Stankey, the highly-anticipated sequel helped double HBO Max subscriptions (including “activations” by HBO subscribers who log into HBO Max for the first time) during the fourth quarter. The streaming service is now two years ahead of schedule in its quest to build a subscriber base that go toe-to-toe with heavy hitters Netflix and Disney+. While Wonder Woman 1984 obviously didn’t, and couldn’t, have a box-office haul in the billions like the first film, AT&T is pleased that its hybrid release strategy worked as planned and was the “right call” for the rest of 2021. Via Deadline:
“You’ve seen other studios have continued to snowplow releases in the second half of the year, which cements our view. We’ll see a crowded theatrical field in late 2021 and early 2022,” said Stankey, “We don’t believe that magically just because there’s more content showing up in theaters all at the same, that’s going to dramatically increase the moviegoing population at that time,” said Stankey.
However, despite the pandemic offering a boon to streaming services, HBO Max isn’t immune to a growing concern amongst top-tier providers: “churn.” According to a new Deloitte survey reported in the Los Angeles Times, 46% of subscribers have cancelled at least one streaming service in the past six months, and 62% of those users pulled the plug because the show or movie they watched was finished. In other words, as the number of streaming services increases, it’s becoming harder and harder to retain subscribers who don’t see the value in paying a monthly fee once they’ve already got what they needed from the service.
In HBO Max’s case, users could theoretically subscribe and unsubscribe based on whether there’s a Warner Bros. movie they want to watch that month or not.