HBO Max Finally Confirms UK Launch – After Sky Deal Ends

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Warner Bros. Discovery is setting the stage for a major shake-up in the UK’s streaming landscape, with plans to launch Max, the platform formerly known as HBO Max, on our side of the pond.

However, don’t turn your TV on just yet – as the company plans for Max to launch in the UK sometime in 2026. And yet – it’s more confirmation than we’ve had before.

This strategic move, unveiled during the company’s Q4 2023 earnings call today, underscores the media conglomerate’s commitment to expanding its global footprint, with CEO David Zaslav highlighting the UK as a critical market in their European strategy.

The anticipation for Max’s arrival stems from its unique merging of content from HBO, Warner Bros., and Discovery (which is already available in the UK), promising a rich catalogue that includes everything from The Sopranos and House of The Dragon to The Last Of Us and True Detective.

However, the journey to British screens has been anything but straightforward, tangled in a web of licensing agreements with Sky that have, until now, kept the service at bay.

House of the dragon on Sky Glass
House Of The Dragon on Sky

Yet today’s call also included hints about the possibility of another future partnership with Sky.

Max’s Long Road To The UK

HBO Max – now known simply as Max – is a popular American streaming service owned by Warner Bros. Discovery that features content from HBO (the critically acclaimed premium cable network), as well as content from other platforms – DC, Warner and others.

So, in addition to HBO classics like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones (as well as its spinoff House of the Dragon), Max features newer hits like The Last Of Us, Succession, The White Lotus, and many others.

The Last Of Us HBO
The Last Of Us (Photo: HBO)

In 2022, Discovery finalised its purchase of Warner Bros. (from AT&T), and in 2023, HBO Max was merged with Discovery+ and given its new name – Max.

The journey of HBO Max, now rebranded as Max, to British shores has been fraught with anticipation and delays, rooted in a complex web of licensing agreements and strategic market considerations.

Historically, Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO’s content has been available in the UK through a long-standing partnership with Sky, encompassing both the Sky and NOW platforms.

This arrangement, in place since 2010 and extended in 2019, has made Sky the UK home for HBO’s critically acclaimed productions, as well as a host of Warner Bros. films and DC shows like Peacemaker.

Sky Stream in bedroom side view
Sky Stream

With so many other studios launching their own streaming services (such as Disney+ and Paramount+), Warner and HBO’s content is now one of Sky’s major content selling points.

This exclusivity agreement has been a double-edged sword, providing UK viewers with access to high-quality content while simultaneously delaying the introduction of Max as a standalone streaming service.

The intricacies of these licensing deals, designed to last until at least 2025, have effectively barred Warner Bros. Discovery from launching its own direct-to-consumer product in the UK.

Max Coming To The UK In 2026

During Warner Bros. Discovery’s earnings call today, David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, shared the company’s vision for Max’s international expansion, highlighting the strategic importance of the UK, Germany, and Italy as key markets.

David Zaslav CEO Warner Bros. Discovery
David Zaslav (Photo: Deposit Photos / Image Press Agency)

Zaslav expressed enthusiasm for Max’s growth potential in more international markets, stating, “We are excited that in 2024, we’re getting back to growth in new market rollouts.

“Asia and Australasia will likely be more by 2025. And then the rest of the European markets for now slated more for 2026.”

Zaslav further elaborated on the UK market, emphasizing the success of the Discovery+ direct-to-consumer product and the recently rebranded TNT Sports partnership with BT, which boasts millions of subscribers.

TNT Sports collage

“The idea of coming into that market with the wealth of content that we have, and we see how well our content works in the UK.

“And so we think those will be real businesses for us and a meaningful and real opportunity to grow economics and grow subscribers, but that’ll begin in 2026.”

Addressing the existing partnership with Sky, Zaslav acknowledged its value but emphasized the strategic importance of launching a direct-to-consumer product:

“We have deals in those markets with Sky, which is and has been over the years, a great partner to us in many ways and will continue to be a great partner to us. 

“But having our own direct-to-consumer product in those markets is a core strategic initiative of ours, and we’re already in business aggressively in those markets.”

HBO Max logo with new Max logo
(Photo: Deposit Photos / Rafapress)

JB Perrette, CEO and President of global Streaming and Games at Warner Bros. Discovery, also spoke on the strategy shift towards a standalone service, suggesting potential efficiencies and scale achievable through partnerships with local distributors.

This approach could hint at another possible future partnership with Sky, perhaps similar to Sky’s agreement with Paramount+, which is available at no extra cost to all Sky Cinema subscribers.

What This Means for UK Viewers

The announcement from Warner Bros. Discovery’s earnings call has injected a fresh wave of optimism among UK viewers regarding the launch of Max, a scenario that seemed increasingly uncertain.

Previously, the intricate web of content agreements with Sky and strategic global partnerships had cast a shadow over the possibility of Max arriving as a standalone service.

These existing arrangements, coupled with the company’s focus on leveraging partnerships in other markets (such as with Sky in New Zealnd, recently), raised doubts about its commitment to directly entering the UK streaming scene.

HBO Max on screen - deposit - vadimrysev
(Photo: Deposit Photos / Vadimrysev)

However, the explicit commitment to a 2026 launch has dispelled these doubts, signalling Warner Bros. Discovery’s intention to carve out a direct-to-consumer space in the UK.

There’s one question that still remains, though – Sky’s current deal with Warner Bros. Discovery will supposedly end in 2025, therefore it remains to be seen what happens between then – and Max’s potential UK launch in 2026.

And of course – some may still say that getting yet another standalone streaming service in the UK is one too many – but that remains to be seen.

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5 thoughts on “HBO Max Finally Confirms UK Launch – After Sky Deal Ends”

  1. HBO means quality. MAX means nothing. To indicate the incorporation of extra services, I would have called it HBO+.

    If you want a discount from Now, by the way, ignore the six month lock-in deals, take the regular subscription, and after a day or two, start a cancellation. You should get an automated retention offer as part of the dialogue; accept this and exit the cancellation. That way, you will only pay full price for the first month, after which you will be on a discounted rate for a few months with no lock-in at all. When the discounted deal looks like coming to an end, rinse and repeat.

    Reply
  2. Finally, it looks like I’ll be able to ditch Now TV by 2026. At this point, I only have Now TV for HBO and DC TV shows, but now they’ve introduced 6-month minimum terms for their discount deals it’s not worth it for me any more, and I might just wait until those TV shows are on Max.

    Reply
  3. Although it’s yet another streaming service but the rich catalogue of content that HBO has provided over the last couple of decades is second to none, easily some of the best, most iconic TV shows for the past two decades. Having all that under one streaming service that’s not tied to Sky in the UK is very enticing despite having to pay annoyingly another cost. If they can combine Discovery+ in the UK into this by 2026 then it would be a welcome bonus.

    Reply
    • That’s not true – Zaslav is an idiot why they removed TCM from Astra? This channel should be available in US Canada and UK and all Europe but that is ot the case.
      They have no idea how to run this bussiness and dealing with Sky certainly not help

      Reply
      • TCM was shut down in various other countries across Europe & Asia-Pacific before Zaslav became CEO of combined company, it was inevitable it was going close in the UK at some point

        Reply

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