Television analytics platform TV Time has conducted a survey to gauge awareness and interest to subscribe to HBO Max prior to launch and what content appeals most to viewers, with Millennials expressing the highest level of intent to subscribe, and Older Gen X and Millennial audience segments most interested in HBO titles and Max Originals
Consumers now have many content streaming choices, so will HBO Max be seen as a must have service right out-of-the-gate? One of WarnerMedia’s secret weapons is the Friends franchise. WarnerMedia outbid Netflix to secure the show’s streaming rights in a reported $500 million deal. Friends had been a staple at Netflix and was the platform’s second-most-streamed show. Will the Friends franchise help HBO Max break through the clutter and create an urgency to subscribe? And could the production delays caused by Covid-19 of highly-anticipated ‘tent pole’ content such as the Friends reunion special and other originals slow the acquisition trajectory?
Whip Media company TV Time set out to understand some of these questions, and to survey the market interest in potential motivations and willingness to subscribe to HBO Max. It should be noted that the survey – Can HBO Max Maximize the Value of Its Content? – was fielded prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Awareness plays a critical role in the decision-making process of selecting a new service. Among Total Respondents, 69 per cent were aware of the forthcoming HBO Max service, followed by a distant Peacock at 35 per cent and Quibi at 24 per cent. This is a noticeable increase from the level of awareness of the HBO Max service that TV Time measured in the autumn of 2019, which was 37 per cent.
As awareness has increased, so has the intent to subscribe. Among those aware of the upcoming HBO Max service, 31 per cent expressed they were Likely/Very Likely to subscribe. This compares to Total Respondents where 24 per cent expressed Likely/Very Likely to subscribe. By contrast, in the autumn survey, only 16 per cent of Total Respondents expressed Likely/Very Likely to subscribe.
There are some generational differences among Total Respondents in level of awareness with the more mature Millennial (23-38) audience segment having the highest level of awareness at 73 per cent. Millennials also expressed the highest level of Likely/Very Likely intent to subscribe at 26 per cent. By contrast, the Gen Z (22 and under) crowd had a level of awareness of 64 per cent with the lowest Likely/Very Likely intent to subscribe of 22 per cent. With HBO Max’s stated intent to develop programming designed to skew younger, TV Time would expect likeliness to subscribe to increase over time as they roll-out content more relevant and attractive to this segment. Gen X (39-54) fell in the mid-point with a 67 per cent level of awareness and a 23 per cent Likely/Very Likely intent to subscribe.
Delivering robust, high-quality content is the critical underlying strategy to the HBO Max service. The power of the HBO brand ignited with 63 per cent of Total Respondents citing HBO content as driving Interested/Very Interested in the service. This jumped to a commanding 91 per cent among those Likely/Very Likely to subscribe. DC Entertainment is also a well-known brand and not surprisingly, generated 57 per cent Interested/Very Interested in that content among Total Respondents and 73 per cent interest among those Likely/Very Likely to subscribe.
As to Max Originals, only 51 per cent of Total Respondents expressed this as a content driver to subscribe. But Max Originals scored big at 87 per cent among those Likely/Very Likely to subscribe. This might suggest that the broader market is not familiar with the casting and programming line-up of Max Originals.
While original content is certainly important, the value of the long-standing re-watchable libraries should nor be forgotten. Television and movie libraries achieved very solid percentages as content drivers that might motivate interest to subscribe. For example, among Total Respondents, Warner Library Movies achieved a respectable 53 per cent and Warner Library Shows garnered 49 per cent interest as content drivers that might encourage subscriptions.
Content drivers among the generations show different tastes for different market segments. Among Total Respondents, it appears that HBO Max has a sweet spot with Millennials, as interest is highest in this generational group. Younger Gen Z and Millennial audience segments are more interested in Warner Library Shows, Warner Cable Network Shows and CW Shows. Many of the titles are geared toward Young Adult viewers. By comparison, Older Gen X and Millennial audience segments are most interested in HBO titles and Max Originals. This content is more sophisticated and designed to appeal to these viewing constituents.
Many viewers might not be aware that Friends is no longer available on Netflix. After explaining that Friends officially left Netflix on January 1st, 2020 and will only be available to stream on HBO Max going forward, Total Respondents were asked how important it is to be able to watch Friends on a streaming service.
Overall, it was not deemed highly-important, with 17 per cent stating it was Important/Very Important. A full 45 per cent expressed it was Very Unimportant. The picture changes dramatically among those Likely/Very Likely to subscribe to HBO Max. The availability of Friends matters more with 27 per cent citing it as Important/Very Important. The Very Unimportant declined to 36 per cent among this group.
Among the generational segments, the younger Gen Z audience (29 per cent) stated the availability of streaming Friends is Important/Very Important. This highlights that Friends is timeless, with enduring themes, and is able to attract new younger audiences long after it has left the airwaves. This might also be true for other ‘older’ sitcoms as the streaming rights become available. Friends is also well aligned with WarnerMedia’s strategy to attract younger, female audiences.
As a brand, HBO has already proven that it can command a higher price point compared to other streaming platforms, and still attract viewers. The question that remains is whether HBO Max can expand the audience in an already crowded field. When the sheer volume of premium content from WarnerMedia is considered – ranging from television to theatrical to originals to classics – there should be little question that HBO Max can maximise the value of that content.
Furthermore, the investment in the Friends streaming rights seems well placed to capture the new and younger Gen Z audience. The franchise was popular when it originally aired and remained popular when it moved to a new distribution outlet at Netflix.
Now it seems poised to continue that trend with HBO Max. Other planned Originals in the pipeline plus highly-watchable and binge-worthy television and movie libraries owned by WarnerMedia, will further serve to expand the brand appeal of HBO Max and attract and retain new audiences and demographics.