HBO Max just passed another major streaming milestone to solidify its position as the leading competitor to Netflix and Disney Plus.
For the first time since its launch in 2020, the streamer has featured in media analyst Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings by name, after capturing 1% of total US viewing time in April.
That might not sound like a number to write home about, but HBO Max has so far been limited to the “other streamers” category in the data company’s regular Snapshot. For comparison, Disney Plus and Netflix accounted for 1.7% and 6.6% of total U.S. viewing time, respectively, in April, while streaming services as a whole broke the 30% mark for the first time.
The latter statistic comes as no surprise. Cable television consumed just 36.8% of total television viewing in the last month, and it doesn’t seem long before streaming becomes the dominant method of accessing entertainment worldwide (total TV usage is down almost 2% compared to March return).
But HBO’s continued momentum suggests Netflix and Disney Plus won’t be the only services responsible for the shift when that time comes. The latter still has almost twice as many subscribers as of this writing, although given Netflix’s leaking customers and HBO Max’s rapid expansion in European territories, the Warner Bros. Discovery streamer has every chance of leveling the playing field within a few years to enhance.
Back in January, we published an article about the extraordinary year HBO Max was having in 2021 – the service surpassed its year-end subscriber goal and then some – but we also cautioned against expecting it to repeat the same success in 2022 will.
Our skepticism came from fears that the global pandemic has pushed a disproportionate number of subscribers to HBO Max in 2021, with Warner’s day-and-date release schedule making blockbusters like The Suicide Squad, The Matrix Resurrections, and Dune available on the streamer at the same time as their respective theatrical releases (essentially making HBO Max a hotter property than it otherwise could have been).
Warner scrapped day-and-date movie releases at the turn of the year and hinted that HBO Max wouldn’t benefit from a similar injection of subscribers in 2022 — but the streamer’s recent content list has nonetheless continued to prove critically and commercially attractive.
Despite not releasing simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, tentpole films like The Batman have still landed on the streamer after 45 days, while new shows like Euphoria, Peacemaker and The Flight Attendant have become some of this year’s most popular TV releases counting.
The HBO library is only getting better, too. Westworld Season 4, Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon and (we think) series The Last of Us will all arrive on HBO Max before the end of the year, while new episodes of Barry and Succession are also available on the way.
The point is, given all the fuss surrounding the battles Netflix is facing and the relentless coverage of Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel properties, it’s easy to think of the so-called streaming wars as a two-horse race. But HBO Max is in pristine health, and the service could usurp one of its two biggest competitors much sooner than we think.