AT&T's long-anticipated streaming service, HBO Max, officially launches Wednesday, thrusting the longtime wireless and pay TV provider into a crowded streaming market, perhaps forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The service will launch with 10,000 hours of programming, including new original titles like "Love Life," a scripted comedy starring actress Anna Kendrick, and the entire catalog of beloved sitcom "Friends." It will run new customers $14.99 a month.
Since the advent of the telephone, AT&T has been able to get ahead of trends through strategic partnerships and acquisitions. With HBO Max, AT&T will be able to fully leverage the huge library of content it now owns - including TNT, TBS, TruTV, HBO and others - thanks to its $108.7 billion merger with Time Warner, now WarnerMedia.
Now it's the latest entrant into the streaming wars - a fact that doesn't elude former network executive and current WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt.
Given the time it took for the merger to go through and the roughly 14 month timeline to build HBO Max, AT&T arrives ready to compete, Greenblatt said.
"The interface between AT&T and WarnerMedia has been really extraordinary," he said.
AT&T plans to invest $4 billion in HBO Max over the next several years as it will have to create new content that retains subscribers for longer than initial promotional periods.
Just last week, WarnerMedia CTO Jeremy Legg revealed the company was hiring 200 people as it staffed up ahead of the platform's debut. Most of those hires will be engineers for the forthcoming ad-supported version of HBO Max to be launched next year, and to help launch the service internationally.
Greenblatt confirmed the company is also in the early stages of thinking about incorporating a social experience into HBO Max that would be akin to the chat functionality in streaming services like Twitch, where users can comment on content they watch together in real time.
"We like the idea of people being able to watch things together," he said.