HBO Max, the popular new American streaming service, is set to launch in 60 more countries this year – so what about the UK?
Unfortunately, the UK won’t be getting it until 2025 at the earliest (for reasons explained down below) – but WarnerMedia’s CEO is already making plans for the future.
HBO Max launched in the US late last year, as sort of an “expanded” version of HBO. With HBO being one of the most recognisable brands in television, it made sense for Warner to capitalise on that success – and add more content and TV brands on top of it.
HBO Max, which in the US costs $14.99/month, includes the entire HBO library (including new releases), as well as content from other platforms – DC, Universal Pictures, Warner and more.
So in addition to HBO classics like The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones, as well as new hits like Watchmen and Succession, HBO Max also has a diverse library of non-HBO shows, like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Raised by Wolves and many others.
In addition, with cinemas in the US (and around the world) closed due to the pandemic, Warner’s films have also been going straight to HBO Max.
So, Wonder Woman 1984 (which is available as a premium VOD rental in the UK) launched on HBO Max on the same day it was released in movie theatres, and the recent Zack Snyder’s Justice League came directly to HBO Max as well (and is available on Sky and NOW in the UK).
It was even announced that ALL of WarnerMedia’s films in 2021 – including highly anticipated ones like Dune and Matrix 4 – will also go directly to HBO Max, at least in the US.
So, what about the UK? While there are ways to watch HBO Max in the UK, fans were hoping for an official launch, especially when Warner announced plans to expand HBO Max to 21 countries in Europe this year.
But in an interview with Financial Times, Jason Kilar – WarnerMedia’s CEO – confirms HBO Max won’t be reaching the UK anytime soon.
The problem? HBO’s content, as well as some of WarnerMedia’s content, is already licensed to Sky (and its streaming service, NOW). That has been the case since 2010, and will continue until 2025.
The extension to this deal was announced back in 2019, making Sky (and NOW) “the UK home of existing and upcoming HBO productions, as well as productions from HBO Max.”
According to the FT, WarnerMedia executives explored options to change the Sky deal – but did not pursue a contract renegotiation. Therefore, HBO Max can’t launch in the UK, at least until its partnership with Sky ends.
However, CEO Kilar says he’s been spending a lot of time thinking heavily about what happens once the Sky deal is over, since “There is a tremendous opportunity for us to have HBO Max in the UK, Germany and other markets.”
Things are simpler in other parts of Europe – HBO already operates directly in a few European countries, such as Poland, Czech Republic and HBO Nordic (Norway, Denmark and Finland).
In those countries, HBO will “transform” into HBO Max later in the year.