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HBO app confusion prompts WarnerMedia to cancel HBO Now, HBO Go

HBO Max programs include "Friends," "Wonder Woman," "The Dark Knight," "The Sopranos" and "The Not Too Late Show With Elmo."
HBO Max has a bounty of programming, including “Friends,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Sopranos” and “The Not Too Late Show With Elmo.”
(WB/WB/WB, DC Comics/HBO/HBO Max/GlueKit)

With the launch of the HBO Max streaming service, WarnerMedia encountered mass confusion in the market.

Despite the company’s huge promotional push, consumers struggled to wrap their heads around HBO Max. Some wondered how the latest HBO offering — which debuted May 27 — was different from three earlier iterations of the premium TV network known for “Game of Thrones,” “Succession,” “The Wire” and “The Sopranos.”

WarnerMedia, owned by telecommunications giant AT&T, acknowledged the issue Friday, and said it would take steps to end the bewilderment. The company plans to discontinue its HBO Go app by July 31 and abandon the HBO Now brand name.

HBO Now — which has more than 10 million subscribers — will simply be called HBO.

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“Now that HBO Max has launched and is widely distributed, we can implement some significant changes to our app offering in the U.S.,” WarnerMedia said in a statement. “We will be sunsetting our HBO Go service in the U.S.”

The company said that “existing HBO Now subscribers will have access to HBO” through an app called HBO.

Times TV critic Robert Lloyd on the HBO Max original content available at launch, including Elmo, ‘Legendary,’ ‘Love Life,’ ‘Looney Tunes’ and ‘Craftopia.’

And for HBO Go users: “Most customers who have traditionally used HBO Go to stream HBO programming are now able to do so via HBO Max, which offers access to all of HBO together with so much more,” WarnerMedia said.

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Going forward, there will be two platforms: HBO and HBO Max.

WarnerMedia has not divulged how many users signed up for HBO Max, its new $14.99-a-month streaming service, making it difficult to know whether the confusion hurt subscription sales. The service launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic and just as protests over the death of George Floyd were swelling into a historic, multicultural movement.

The firm Sensor Tower, which analyzes the app economy, estimates there have been nearly 2 million downloads of the HBO Max app in the U.S. since the service debuted. On launch day, HBO Max replaced the company’s previous app, HBO Now. But Sensor Tower’s research does not indicate how many existing HBO customers upgraded to HBO Max.

AT&T plans to release subscriber numbers during its second-quarter earnings call next month.

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia pulls ‘Gone With the Wind’ from HBO Max but plans to return it with disclaimers about the 1939 film’s ‘painful stereotypes.’

Disney+ attracted 10 million subscribers in its first day last November but WarnerMedia expected HBO’s sign-ups to be much lighter because HBO already has more than 30 million customers.

HBO Max is a streaming platform that offers HBO programming, including its library of award-winning shows, and additional content from the Warner Bros. studio, New Line Cinema, DC, TBS and Cartoon Network, along with a handful of Max Originals. It has a bounty of old TV shows, including “Friends,” “The West Wing” and “The Big Bang Theory,” along with movies including the Harry Potter franchise, “Wonder Woman,” “Citizen Kane” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

WarnerMedia used HBO to brand its new service because HBO has long been the gold standard for prestige television. But in trying to hold on to that patina of quality while also reaching out to a broader subscriber base, the company muddied its message.

Over the years, there have been various incarnations of HBO to respond to shifts in viewing behavior. HBO, the premium TV channel, launched in 1972 and was available to pay-TV customers.

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HBO Go launched in 2010 to give pay-TV customers and Amazon Prime members the option of accessing HBO shows on smart TVs and mobile devices. Five years later, HBO Now debuted as a stand-alone streaming service offering HBO series, specials and movies. It targeted subscribers who had high-speed internet but not a pay-TV package.


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