HBO Max will expand to Europe, Latin America in 2021

(Logo: AT&T/WarnerMedia, Graphic designed by The Desk)

AT&T’s WarnerMedia subsidiary will roll out its blockbuster streaming app HBO Max to countries in Europe and Latin America next year, a company executive revealed last week.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Portugal on Thursday, HBO Max Global executive Andy Forssell said the expansion of the streaming app will take place in the second half of 2021.

“By the end of the year, both of those regions will be very active,” Forssell said, though he didn’t provide specifics on which countries would see the streaming app.

AT&T operates regional variants of its premium HBO movie network in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Romania and Russia, while TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany have access to HBO content through partner distributors like Sky satellite television. in Central and South America, AT&T distributes HBO programming through its HBO Latin America subsidiary, which is available on pay TV systems and over the Internet.

In countries where HBO offers a direct-to-consumer streaming service, Forssell said customers will transition over to a regional variant of HBO Max with an expanded library of television shows and movies. The library is expected to be similar to HBO Max’s state-side offering, with some variants based on licensing deals with it and other streaming services in each country.

Overall, Forssell said AT&T plans on offering regional variants of HBO Max in around 190 countries, with some signing on next year. “It’s just a matter of how fast we can do that,” he said.

The state-side version of HBO Max launched in late May on Apple and Android devices, including streaming TV hardware made or licensed by both, with Amazon’s Fire TV platform joining in November. Since it became available, Forssell said the company witnessed a 60 percent jump in consumption of HBO content largely attributed to stay-at-home orders that kept people indoors during the global coronavirus health pandemic.

The pandemic caused HBO to suspend some production of original programs that were to be exclusive to HBO Max, but Forssell said the stay-at-home orders gave people the opportunity to watch past HBO programming that they may have missed when it first aired on the network.

“We saw a lot of people take on the classics that maybe they didn’t have a chance to watch before,” Casey Bloys, the chief content officer for HBO, said in a statement. “It speaks to the value of [offering] a really deep, rich library.”

Customers who use Roku’s line of streaming devices have been able to access that classic content, too — and, in some ways, have been limited to it. Since HBO Max launched, it has been largely absent from Roku’s streaming hardware and TV sets because it has refused to come to terms with AT&T on a distribution deal.

In recent weeks, Roku and AT&T have largely resolved one major issue that has stood in the way of a deal: A prior agreement that allowed Roku to offer native HBO subscriptions through its Roku Channel in exchange for a small commission. But the two sides continue to remain at odds over the amount of commercial inventory Roku will be allowed to access when AT&T launches a cheaper, ad-supported version of HBO Max sometime next year, according to a source.

Despite this, both sides are close to inking a deal, the source said. On Friday, WarnerMedia’s chief executive Jason Kilar appeared to echo this sentiment when he compared negotiations with Roku to that of Amazon, which resulted in a deal in early November.

“It’s very clearly in the interest of Roku, and WarnerMedia, to find common ground here,” Kilar told a technology reporter. “It benefits both companies — and, even more importantly, fans want it. Usually when you have those dynamics at play, things get figured out.”

When pressed on details, Kilar declined to offer specifics on the company’s negotiations with Roku, except to say that both sides were talking “daily.”