HBO Max hits 90,000 mobile downloads on day one, putting it behind rival services

May 28, 2020, 7:02 PM UTC

AT&T Inc.’s big bet on its new streaming platform, HBO Max, depends on luring fresh customers who aren’t just converting from existing HBO services at the same price. It’s off to a soft start in that regard.

About 90,000 people downloaded the $15-a-month HBO Max mobile app on Wednesday, its first day, 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, according to SensorTower. And more than 300,000 people downloaded the short-form streaming service Quibi on its first day in April. A spokesman for AT&T’s WarnerMedia, the division that runs HBO Max, said the figure isn’t accurate but didn’t provide a different one.

Jason Kilar, chief executive officer of WarnerMedia and a former head of streaming service Hulu, said he’s happy with the HBO Max launch. “This is a unique platform in many ways, including the way it is distributed,” he said in an emailed statement. “I’ve seen this movie before and am so excited as we begin down this path engaging viewers globally with our unmatched shows and rich library.”

There are a couple of caveats to the competitors’ figures. Quibi, which ordinarily costs $5 a month, offered 90-day free trials. As many as 19 million Verizon Communications Inc. subscribers were eligible to sign up for a free year of Disney+, which usually costs $7 a month, although Disney received unspecified wholesale revenue from Verizon for those customers.

Read more: Quibi revamps its programming after a rocky start

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 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 $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.

HBO Max is still racing to sign distribution deals. WarnerMedia announced Wednesday that it had an agreement with Comcast Corp., the largest broadband provider. HBO Max still isn’t available on home-streaming devices from Roku Inc. and Inc.

HBO Max arrived late to the streaming game, following the recent arrivals of Disney+, Apple Inc.’s Apple TV+, Comcast’s Peacock and Quibi. And at $15, it entered a crowded market as the most expensive service — just as a recession is causing many people to curtail their spending.

Still, it benefits from the name recognition of HBO, whose shows also appear on HBO Max. And the service is stocked with a massive library of 10,000 hours of programming, including reruns of sitcoms like “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory.”