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HBO Max has 12.6 million streaming customers, CEO says

Still a fraction of the number of overall subscribers to HBO, but it's progress.

Still a fraction of the number of overall subscribers to HBO, but it's progress.

(Image: WarnerMedia/AT&T/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

More than 12 million people are accessing HBO’s original programs and a vast library of WarnerMedia and other content through the company’s blockbuster streaming service HBO Max, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference, AT&T chief executive John Stankey said HBO Max’s original content like “The Flight Attendant” was helping connect more streamers with the $15 a month subscription service.

In the past, Stankey has assured investors and others that he’s pleased with the progress of HBO Max, even though the streaming service has missed short-term subscriber targets.

Overall, HBO Max hopes to reach more than 50 million domestic subscribers and another 75 million to 90 million subscribers around the world by 2025.

“We’re actually ahead of plan,” Stankey claimed.

The executive also shed more light on the company’s recent decision to release all 2021 theatrical films on HBO Max at the same time the movies are released in cinemas domestically. The move will allow fans to access new releases on HBO Max for one month and help Warner Bros. pay talent and movie crews associated with the titles.

But the decision hasn’t been without its criticism from some of the Hollywood elite: On Monday, director Christopher Nolan called the move a “bait and switch” and blasted HBO Max as “the worst” streaming service on the market.

“Customers have a tremendous amount of choice as to how they choose to engage with content,” Stankey said when asked about the criticism. “If we just simply sit here and say, this is about whether or not people go to movie theaters, I think we’re missing the broader point.”

Stankey said before AT&T’s decision last week customers were already growing accustom to watching top-tier movies and shows on streaming services.

“Customers are going to drive what happens in a market, ultimately,” Stankey said.

Last week, WarnerMedia executive Jason Kilar said the company had not committed to a long-term strategy of distributing films on company-owned streaming services in tandem with their theatrical release.

“I absolutely believe in the theatrical marketplace,” Kilar told a popular entertainment trade publication. “As to what the world looks like after 2021, I have no grand proclamations to make. Our focus, candidly, is on the here and now.”