The generals who will lead HBO Max into battle with Netflix and Disney Plus are emerging.
John Stankey, the CEO of AT&T's WarnerMedia, has appointed in the last few months a slew of executives to key roles overseeing its forthcoming streaming service, HBO Max.
The subscription offering, due out in the spring of 2020, is WarnerMedia's bet on the future of TV. As viewers abandon traditional TV services, including AT&T's satellite operator, DirecTV, the company is turning to online-video subscriptions to grow its audience.
HBO Max will be AT&T's "workhorse" on-demand video offering, CEO Randall Stephenson said on its third-quarter earnings call on Monday.
AT&T is expected to give an update on all things WarnerMedia, including HBO Max and its pricing details, at its Oct. 29 investor presentation, which it dubbed "WarnerMedia Day."
The service hits as other legacy entertainment companies including Disney, Discovery, and NBCUniversal are launching streaming services, as are tech companies like Apple.
AT&T is leaning on the legacy HBO brand to compete. HBO Max will merge HBO's programming with movies, TV shows, and specials from other WarnerMedia properties, like Warner Bros. and Turner channels TBS, TNT, and truTV. It's also developing original programming for the platform, and licensing content from outside studios.
It's unclear how much appetite there is for another subscription service that has a little bit of everything, like HBO Max is shaping up to be.
Stephenson vowed on Monday that the product would be unique: "This is not Netflix. This is not Disney. This is HBO Max," he said.
Early consumer surveys suggest that upcoming rivals like Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, which roll out in November and have more distinct programming lanes, have done better jobs wooing potential subscribers than HBO Max.
HBO Max, of course, still has months to drum up interest ahead of its launch. Management has set an ambitious target of reaching 80 million subscribers by 2025, on par with Disney Plus's goal of 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024, Reuters reported.
However, parent company AT&T has also been targeted by an activist investor Elliott Management, which is calling for the company to lay out a clear vision, now, for the former Time Warner assets it bought for $81 billion last year. The company is also under more pressure than some of its competitors to make the service profitable, quickly.
Ahead of the event and the release of HBO Max, these are the top execs to watch behind the streaming service. The list does not include execs from HBO, which will play a big part in the success of the streaming service, but also has separate teams within WarnerMedia.
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