Data show why HBO Max's slow start may not tell the whole story

AT&T’s (T) HBO Max made its official entrance into the streaming wars on Wednesday — and day-one downloads have sparked a debate over how widely consumers are embracing the new platform.

According to data from Sensor Tower, 87,000 users across Apple’s App Store and Google Play downloaded the HBO Max app on Wednesday. That is well below competitors like Quibi (CMCSA) and Disney+ (DIS) which nabbed 380,000 and 4 million initial mobile downloads, respectively.

Meanwhile, a few observers suggest HBO Max committed a strategic blunder by not reaching a deal to be available at launch on popular platforms Roku (ROKU) and Amazon’s (AMZN) Fire TV.

In an email to Yahoo Finance, a WarnerMedia spokesperson called the Sensor data “not accurate,” but declined to provide alternative figures.

Still, the data may not capture the full story. Although 87,000 may seem small, it’s important to keep in mind that these numbers strictly reflect mobile downloads, and neglect to include other ways that people can acquire the service like through a cable provider. It also does not include those who upgraded from the old HBO Now app.

According to Sensor Tower estimates, between both HBO Max and its previous incarnation as HBO Now, the app has lifetime installs of over 33 million since launching in April 2015. That’s still a far cry from Netflix’s 260 million, Hulu’s 120 million (both Netflix and Hulu were calculated beginning in January 2014) and Disney+’s 50 million.

Yet given that HBO Now previously averaged 16,000 new installs every day, the 71,000 additional downloads for HBO Max seems like a good start.

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 29: Tony Goncalves, Chief Executive Officer of Otter Media, speaks onstage at HBO Max WarnerMedia Investor Day Presentation at Warner Bros. Studios on October 29, 2019 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)


The WarnerMedia spokesperson did say that “HBO subscribers of our distribution partners — Comcast, Charter, Cox, Altice, Verizon, and others all had immediate access to HBO Max on the day of launch.” He added the streamer experienced “great success” with its 12 for 12 promotion, which welcomed new subscribers prior to Wednesday’s debut.

HBO Max bets big on ‘rich’ library of content

With a price tag of $15 a month, HBO Max has one of the most expensive on the market, but has also amassed an impressive library of content. It features everything from hit sitcoms like “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” to all eight “Harry Potter” films.

“Speaking as a person who has led some very talented teams that launched streaming services, I can tell you that I am happy with the launch of HBO Max,” WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement.

“This is a unique platform in many ways, including the way it is distributed. 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,” he added.

The AT&T-owned property already announced a second wave of original content to hit this summer — which will allow the platform to sustain its launch, even amidst the coronavirus production dry-up that has impacted competitors from Apple TV+ (AAPL) to Disney+.

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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