AT&T’s Interest in an Ad-Supported HBO Max Is a Double-Edged Sword

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If there was any doubt AT&T (NYSE: T) is moving forward with plans to offer an ad-supported version of HBO Max, they were wiped away earlier this week. Speaking at Citi Global TMT’s virtual conference on Jan. 5, CFO John Stephens commented: “That’s what AVOD is going to help us do [with HBO Max]: expand the opportunity to serve customers in a different way.” He went on to say ad-supported streaming would be a chance to “amortize the investment in content over a greater customer base.”

Simply put, the company clearly still has plans to leverage HBO Max in ways beyond its current subscription-based, ad-free model.

It’s probably the right move. While HBO Max has drawn 12.6 million viewers since launching in May 2020, the figure pales in comparison to Walt Disney’s 86.8 million paying Disney+ customers since it debuted a little over a year ago.

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