A prequel to “Game of Thrones”, the 23 seasons of “South Park”, an original series by Ridley Scott: WarnerMedia is betting on big names and successful brands for its new HBO Max platform, which will cost $14.99 a month starting in May 2020 in the United States.
The media group saved this much-awaited fan information for the end: the television channel HBO has commissioned “House of the Dragon”, a series that is part of the cult “Game of Thrones” universe, the eighth and a priori last season of which was broadcast in the spring. Co-created by George R.R. Martin, the author of the books from which “Game of Thrones” is taken, and screenwriter Ryan Condal, “House of the Dragon” takes place 300 years earlier and tells the story of one of the clans in the medieval fantasy series (The Targaryen Family). The release date has not been announced.
True to its historical choices, HBO Max will offer dozens of other popular brands, from the “Friends” series to the “Batman” movies, betting on quality rather than quantity to differentiate itself from its competitors. It has acquired exclusive rights to the 23 seasons of the satirical animated series “South Park” (with three more seasons to follow), which will be added to other successful comedies such as “Big Bang Theory”.
HBO has become best known for its series aimed at adults, from “Sopranos” to “Big Little Lies”, but WarnerMedia intends to cast a much wider net for its new platform, which will compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney +, Apple TV+, Hulu, Peacock (NBCUniversal), etc.
In terms of original content, the platform aims to attract a more female audience, notably with a science fiction series directed by Ridley Scott, “Raised by Wolves”, about “two androids who must raise human children on a mysterious virgin planet”. Jason Bateman will produce and star in an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Outsider”, while Phoebe Waller-Bridge (author and lead actress of “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime Video) will produce and star in “Run”, a comedy she will also star in. We will see the return of the creator of “Downton Abbey”, Julian Fellowes, with “The Gilded Age” (located in New York in 1885), and the writer David Simon, known for the series “The Wire”, who will adapt Philip Roth’s novel “The Conspiracy Against America”.
Younger children should also find something to their liking with “Sesame Street” or “La Grande Aventure Lego”, for example. The subsidiary of the telecom operator AT&T has also promised new cartoons from the “Looney Tunes” series. HBO Max will go live with 10,000 hours of content, less than the 15,000 hours announced by NBCUniversal for its Peacock platform, which will also be released in the spring of 2020. Not to mention Netflix, a firmly established pioneer, the immense catalogue of Disney + (“Star Wars”, Pixar, Marvel, Fox programs like “The Simpsons”, etc, for $6.99 a month) or Apple TV+ and its broken prices ($4.99).
“The market is already crowded”acknowledges Kevin Reilly, one of the leaders of HBO Max. “But consumption patterns are becoming clear… the top 100 stocks account for half of total consumption.””When we have too many options, in the end we are less satisfied with our choice. It’s a paradox, but that’s how the human brain works”, argued John Stankey, the head of WarnerMedia. “We believe that the value of our proposal increases as we reduce options.
The new platform is therefore supposed to guide the viewer more effectively. In appearance, it looks like other services, but HBO Max relies on humans to make the difference, not just algorithms. Users will thus be recommended films and programmes by actors and other “influencers”. Broadcasts of the new series will be staggered, not all at once as on Netflix, “because we like to have a cultural impact,”says Kevin Reilly.
“HBO hits such as ‘Succession’ and ‘Chernobyl’ have been in the air, on a weekly basis, instead of disappearing quickly after a compulsive ‘three laps and then go’ type of consumption”. WarnerMedia is targeting between 75 and 90 million subscribers by the end of 2025 in the United States, Latin America and Europe. Customers already subscribed to the HBO channel will have access to HBO Max without paying more.