2021, ALL Warner Movies To Debut On HBO Max Streaming Service. And the Bermuda Media Industry May Feel The Impact
The streaming of first-run movies direct to customers should be a surprise to no one, but it is. The media distribution model for music changed, now it's movies turn.HBO Max expected to launch in Bermuda. Latin America to receive HBO Max 2021
Music Changes The Record
The music industry went through its technological rebirth, thanks to Spotify. The pioneering streaming audio company was the first to capture the most extensive customer base for music companies. Apple followed with a strategy to protect its media consumption business, switching per song downloads to monthly streaming subscription. Instead of buying one song for 99 cents, Spotify offered the artist's catalog for a monthly flat fee. That only worked because of the ubiquity of high-speed broadband and larger solid-state hard drives.
High-speed broadband via WiFi allows near-instant download for offline listening, and high-speed mobile data permits the steaming of free ad-supported music on smartphones. High-capacity smartphone storage made music broadly accessible to everyone — one device for all your media — songs and pictures.
Music was technologically transformed, and the business model followed — a few large digital platforms eliminated the need for a large chain of record stores distributing audio content. A large chain. Does this sound familiar? Theatres and cable companies.
HBO’s Chains To The Past
The HBO media company is old in technology terms; it was created as part of the cable era — offering theatre movies in the homes through a cable company chain. As it relates to cable TV chains, this is a recent phenomenon in Bermuda. The island sold its primary cable and telephone networks to regional mobile companies Digicel and One Comm to join their chains. Through acquisitions, Digicel now operates a chain of Caribbean fiber to the home companies. And ATN International, the parent to One Comm, acquiring three cable companies - CableVision Bermuda, Logic Cayman, and Innovative Group Virgin Islands - gained entry into the pay-TV market. Digicel and One Comm became regional clients of the forty-year-old HBO. HBO’s lure was securing big blockbuster movies. However, few realised HBO developed its own content to make it more attractive to subscribers and cable companies — does Game of Thrones, Westworld, Sopranos ring a bell? HBO is a formidable media content producer.
The Change In Movie DNA
Before the COVID era, HBO and Warner Bros. movies were high-quality content producers. Similar to Netflix, HBO appeared on any video platform available. Warner Bros. movies was dependant on movie theatres to vault their movies to blockbuster success. However, after AT&T's purchase of WarnerMedia, which includes HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros. movie studio, and the debut of HBO Max — AT&T's new video distribution service, HBO and Warner's DNA changed to digital content and network offering.
The 2021 Warner Bros. movies: Wonder Woman 1984, The Little Things, Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Suicide Squad, Dune, and Matrix 4, could be positioned as superior sales lead to join the AT&T ecosystem through the subscription of HBO Max. AT&T's ecosystem does not require a chain of third-party buildings with staff — aka movie theatres or cable companies — to give customers access to retail media inventory. Observed with music, the introduction of LTE and unlimited mobile data plans made Spotify ubiquitous; the AT&T introduction of 5G cellular with lots bandwidth to carry, you guessed it: HBO Max content, stages the shift to universal streaming video.
Netflix does not own networks but retains a valuable global customer base of video subscribers. Regardless of their market strengths, both Netflix and HBO Max face growing competition from Comcast, Amazon, and Disney. AT&T bought paying video subscribers, not content companies. Likewise, Spotify and Apple own the largest share of audio subscribers. AT&T is less interested in empty movie seats or the reason why large theatre chains cannot return their investment into the production of movies.
During the COVID era, AT&T's move to stream its 2021 slate of movies on its HBO MAX platform is to recover its investment, significantly expand its customer base, and mitigate the movie theatre chain challenges. While it may upset the studio system, AT&T is an infrastructure company that is capital intensive and cannot spare time or money waiting for third parties to recover or figure out their new role the digital DNA of movies.
Bermuda’s HBO Max streaming challenge
In Bermuda’s case, local mobile companies recently bought cable TV companies and now face the dogged questions: a) How does it compete against Netflix, Amazon, and the announcement that its major partners, HBO and Disney, will launch in 2021? b) How will it make a good return on cable TV companies they purchased under an old business model?
HBO and Disney (aka ESPN and ABC) helped cable companies build their customer base over many decades. Likewise, Warner Brothers Movies was crucial to the movie theatre system.
Spotify killed record stores. Netflix knee-capped cable companies. The HBO Max decision tugs at the movie theatre’s curtains; it does not close them. If Disney and Comcast moved to stream first-run movies during 2021, that would change the whole industry.
From HBO’s perspective, cable companies are losing cable subscribers to Netflix, Amazon, and Disney. And movie theatres cannot guarantee attendees during 2021, so AT&T activating Plan B appears to kill two birds with one stone — address cable and theatre chains at once.
What will the outcome be? 2022 will tell us.