29 MAY 2020

HBO MAX REACHES 90,000 MOBILE DOWNLOADS ON DAY ONE

That number might seem pretty low compared to other streaming launches, but SensorTower data isn’t complete since it focuses only on mobile-app downloads and excludes other ways that people can get the US$15-a-month service, such as through a cable provider.

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About 90,000 people downloaded the HBO Max mobile app on its first day, Wednesday, according to the measurement firm SensorTower Inc. That number is far less than the tally for Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, which attracted 4 million mobile users on its launch day back in November, also according to SensorTower. And more than 300,000 people downloaded the short-form streaming service Quibi on its first day in April.

Distribution is key to over-the-top video penetration, and HBO Max didn’t quite have all its channels lined up when it launched service on May 27. Notably missing: Amazon Prime Channels, Roku and Comcast Xfinity. Later in the day, Max parent WarnerMedia announced it had come to an agreement with Comcast enabling Xfinity and Flex subs to access Max (separate subscription required). This was a big deal since Comcast Cable has more than 20 million video subs and its own competing Peacock SVOD/AVOD service.

Regardless, Max desperately needs as many distributors as possible to stay competitive in the subscriber numbers game with Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu. “We’re thrilled to cap off the excitement of today’s launch by adding Comcast’s Xfinity to our roster of distributors who are now offering HBO Max to their customers,” Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement. “This deal marks another important step in the distribution of HBO Max and provides millions of Xfinity customers with access to the product.”

The SensorTower data on HBO Max isn’t complete since it focuses only on mobile-app downloads and excludes other ways that people can get the US$15-a-month service, such as through a cable provider. It also doesn’t count people who got a free upgrade to HBO Max from the previous streaming app HBO Now, which had the same monthly fee. WarnerMedia also ran a promotion in the weeks leading up to the launch, offering a year of HBO Max for US$12 a month to people who downloaded the app in advance. Those signups also aren’t reflected in the SensorTower data, the WarnerMedia spokesman said.

It’s also worth noting that as I write this on Thursday afternoon, HBO Max is currently No. 2 among “free” apps in the App Store, behind Zoom but ahead of YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, and Disney+. Sensor Tower estimated that HBO Now and Max have been downloaded by 33 million people since launching in April 2015, compared to 260 million for Netflix, 120 million for Hulu (both Netflix and Hulu were measured starting in January 2014) and 50 million for Disney+.