HBO Max will get a cheaper, ad-supported tier in June


Enlarge / A shot from the upcoming Dune adaptation, which will hit theaters and HBO Max this year.

This June, HBO Max will get a cheaper, ad-supported subscription plan, parent company AT&T told investors today. However, a specific price and launch date have not been announced. Right now, an ad-free subscription to HBO Max costs $14.99 monthly in the United States.

There is one major catch, though: the ad-supported version of the service will not stream the much-hyped Warner Bros theatrical releases. Those films include Wonder Woman 1984, which showed simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters in December of 2020, and Dune, which is expected to premiere this year.

HBO will join Paramount+, Hulu, and some other streaming services in offering (at least) two tiers—one relatively low-cost one that involves pre-roll or mid-roll advertising, and one with a higher monthly fee that involves no ads. Still, some of HBO Max’s competitors, like Disney+ or Netflix, do not do sold advertising at all.

This is notable in part because as a premium paid channel, HBO has long been ad-free—something that was unusual in the TV industry before streaming services like Netflix began to dominate. That said, HBO Max contains more than just HBO’s original programming. It also includes films and series from various other brands and studios owned by WarnerMedia.

And in deference to HBO’s history as an ad-free channel, representatives of the service say that content from HBO—that is, stuff made for the premium network—will remain ad-free, even as content for and from other brands may feature commercials.

Along with this announcement, HBO Max reps said the company expects to reach between 67 and 70 million subscribers by the end of 2021 and anywhere from 120 to 125 million by the end of 2025.

The service is also expected to launch in 60 new markets outside the United States this year. Those include 39 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean come June, plus 21 territories in Europe in the second half of the year.

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