WarnerMedia’s HBO Max on-demand service will make its European debut in October with launches in Spain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Andorra. When it does, it will be playing to an established audience with an enviably recognizable brand.
However, competition will not be lacking, and HBO Max will need to navigate carefully around the existing distribution partnerships and licensing agreements that are already in place for HBO-branded content.
HBO Max Europe will hit the ground running
The HBO brand and content are already very well known and familiar to European audiences, with an established perception as a premium, paid stop for destination viewing. With an extensive catalogue of assets to draw upon and a large existing viewer base, the service is very strongly placed to secure a solid foothold in its launch markets and planned follow-ups next year in Portugal and Central and Eastern Europe.
Hurdles to jump
WarnerMedia needs to find the best ways to leverage its diverse and fragmented range of content and brands in a fast-moving and highly cutthroat competitive context. Like other international players, WarnerMedia and HBO Max will face major challenges in Europe posed by complicated and established local content markets that are populated by a variety of rival services, and are under the influence of different competitive and regulatory dynamics.
At the same time the brand will need to synchronize and manage a compelling on-demand offering while avoiding disgruntlement with current partners and cross-service cannibalization of existing HBO-brand distribution agreements.
HBO Max has yet to reveal any pricing details for its European offer, or exactly what content will be featured, although it will be drawing on titles from Warner Bros., HBO, DC and Cartoon Network. It will be interesting to see how well HBO Max manages its European advance, considering the teething problems the service experienced when it launched in the US last year.
More interesting still will be the impact of the pending merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery, planned for sometime next year, and its consequences for HBO Max as well as other HBO and Discovery properties. But there’s no doubt that further content market disruption is on the horizon.