Finding itself in an increasingly crowded market for streaming video, AT&T is hoping to find new paying customers for HBO Max—by giving the forthcoming service away.
In an interview with Reuters published Friday, AT&T COO John Stankey revealed the company will be offering HBO Max for free to its 10 million customers that already subscribe to HBO. HBO Max is scheduled to launch in spring 2020, though some details—including how much it will cost—have not yet been released. The new streaming service will feature HBO content, original shows, movies, and other classic programs like Friends, which has been the subject of content bidding wars over the last couple of years.
With the introduction of HBO Max, AT&T will have quite a few streaming services in its portfolio. Not to be confused with HBO Now (an online subscription to HBO for $15 a month) or HBO Go (an app for customers who subscribe to HBO through a cable provider), HBO Max appears to be AT&T’s most all-encompassing video streaming service. But there’s also AT&T TV, which is a live television service that streams over the internet to a required set-top box (so not exactly a cord-cutting option). Another streaming live television service, AT&T TV Now does not require company-provided hardware, and can run through third-party boxes like Apple TV. AT&T has yet another streaming service named Watch TV, which is only available to AT&T wireless customers with unlimited data plans and offers channels under the WarnerMedia umbrella, along with some Viacom offerings (but, alas, no sports).
It’s unclear how the offer of HBO Max program will work for AT&T customers who currently get HBO through promotional deals they already have with the multi-service provider. For example, AT&T wireless customers with unlimited plans can now already get HBO with no extra charge. Fortune reached out to AT&T for clarity on how the new bundle will affect those customers, but did not receive a reply.
The streaming video market has been expanding for several years, with impending additions of Apple TV + and Disney + giving consumers more subscription options than ever before. The addition of Apple and Disney could crowd the field for AT&T, and the HBO owner doesn’t want to get left behind. Stankey told Reuters it has set a lofty goal of reaching 80 million global subscribers by 2025.
AT&T’s free HBO Max offer is a quick way to give the new service an early boost from its parent company’s existing customers. It’s also a tried and true strategy that other cellular and streaming video service providers have used previously. On Tuesday, for instance, Disney+ announced that its first year would be free for Verizon wireless customers with unlimited plans. That announcement came two years after T-Mobile began offering a free year of Netflix to its unlimited data customers.
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